Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Prince Who Kept The Saudis In Line

Nayef bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud, 1934–2012

"Even within the ultraconservative Saudi royal family, Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud was regarded as a hard-liner. During his four decades as interior minister, he cracked down on even the smallest real or imagined threat to the ruling House of Saud, arbitrarily imprisoning thousands of dissidents—including liberals, women’s-rights campaigners, and religious minorities. But in the wake of the 9/11 attacks on the U.S., his ruthlessness made him a crucial ally of Washington, which looked on approvingly as he crushed Islamic militants inside Saudi Arabia....

"As overseer of Saudi Arabia’s internal security, he confronted three of the gravest domestic challenges the monarchy has ever faced. In the late 1970s, his security forces crushed a wave of protests by the country’s marginalized Shiites, and played a key role in ending the two-week takeover of Mecca’s Grand Mosque by Iranian-backed extremists. Following the attacks of 9/11, Nayef peddled the theory that the attacks were a Jewish plot, and denied that 15 of the 19 hijackers could have come from Saudi Arabia. But his attitude changed in 2003, after al Qaida bombed government facilities and targeted members of the royal family.

"Prince Nayef, who could be equal parts charming and irascible, had long used his close alliance with the more traditional elements of Saudi Arabia’s puritan brand of Islam, Wahhabism, to block any movement toward political change. Political activists said they believed that his death would allow for greater openness in the kingdom because there is no other prince who wields such broad authority with such conviction."

Comment: Remember that al-Qaeda and the Taliban are Sunni fundamentalists.