Saudi Arabia, Religion in the Service of Imperialism

West vs. East?. A clash of civilisations? Religious wars of Sunnis against Shiites, Sunnis against Sunnis, Muslims against Crusaders? Is this the true picture? Not at all. It's just some elements of world capitalism, shaken by the economic crisis, who have unleashed the latest episodes in imperialist war. Yemen is just one more example.

In the midst of the economic and social devastation produced by so-called Arab Spring some of the local imperialist powers including Saudi Arabia began to reveal themselves with more intensity and ferocity. In the petro-monarchy of Riyadh, ruled by Wahabbism, one of the strictest forms of Sunni fundamentalism, its ten million people there are matched by as many foreign workers, who are real slaves who do all the work that the rich Saudi citizen don’t do. This slavery comes about like this. Foreign workers who want to work in Saudi must, on average, pay a figure of around 4,000 Euros in taxes and demands for bribes and lodgings, on the basis of an employment contract guaranteed by a local citizen. This person (called a kafil) holds their passport, and decides how and when to end their employment relationship. There is no union protection. Working hours are supposed to be 8 hours a day but are usually 10 or 12 hours. Overtime is unpaid, the workers are not free even to take leave and, when released from the contract because the kafil no longer needs to exploit them, have to pay up to six months wages to recover their passport and return to their country of origin. Typically foreign workers, whether legal, or even worse, illegal, are Indians, Bangladeshis, or from Baluchistan or the Horn of Africa. In the country with the highest per capita income in the world living conditions are so appalling that thousands of foreign workers are dying of starvation, or cirrhosis, through seeking an impossible escape in alcohol. Despite the alcohol ban imposed by the Muslim religion they can get it at a very high price; many more are affected by depression leading to suicide.

That said, the largest petro-monarchy of the world also uses its sharp claws outside the country. Saudi imperialism, strong because of an oil income that allows it to be the biggest importer of weapons in the world and to have the most powerful army in the Middle East, uses its power to restrict competition within OPEC, to help control the price of oil, and to eliminate all its adversaries, whether Shiite or not. To extend Sunni Wahabbism as a vehicle of control and domination over its allies, it has created satellites or vassals in an area stretching from North Africa to the Persian Gulf. In the course of this it has facilitated the funding and the creation of some terrorist organisations, from the Taliban to IS, in collaboration with the American secret services, with the aim of undermining all those countries that might upset the hegemonic designs of Riyadh.

The ideological weapon usually wielded in these political latitudes is religion. Namely defending the totality of the word of Allah, that is Sunni Wahabbism, against any deviation from the interpretation of the Sunna, that is, against all Shia groups. That the use of religion is just a cover is beyond any doubt, just as secular ideology (e.g. “bringing democracy”) is to Western imperialism; the difference just depends on what drug you believe is more functional to sell the idea to the masses that war is necessary to defend interests that are not their own, but on the contrary is the economic and social antithesis of their very being.

A clear and obvious example of how religion, , acts like a smokescreen to hide the real objectives of its military, is the story of the Saudi attack onYemen. Yemen is a poor country, has little agriculture, little oil, producing 440,000 barrels of oil per day in 2011 and less than half of that today. The balance of payments with foreign countries is always in the red, there is a lot of unemployment and living conditions border on subsistence levels. Despite this, or because of it, a civil war broke out between the Shiite Houthi tribes in the north, and the southern Sunni tribes. The fight is over the exploitation of the little available oil as well as control of the strategic port of Aden. The Houthi Shiites are more or less openly supported by Iran, while Saudi Arabia has sided with the "southern" Sunnis. Here Saudi has also gone further than ever before. It has not limited itself to arming and financing the Southern tribes but has carried out systematic bombing from the air. Though part, of the US coalition against the Shiite Alawite Bashar al-Assad of Syria, the Saudi monrachy had also made a point of arming, funding and politically supporting all terrorist movements fighting against Assad, including ISIS and the al-Nusra Front, just to mention the most important ones.

The Riyadh regime has decided to take direct action in Yemen for three reasons. The first is the obvious need not to allow the emergence of a Shiite state on its southern borders. The second lies in the opportunity to exert influence on the strategic port of Aden and the access through the Strait of Bab el Mandeb to the Red Sea where millions of barrels of crude oil head for and return from the Suez Canal. The third and more important reason is the fierce struggle against its historical enemy Iran, which not only supports the Yemeni Houthi faction fighting the Sunni government, but opposes the Wahabbist imperialist domination of the whole area. The issue is made even more delicate by the American attempt to reach an agreement with the Iranian government on the nuclear dispute that, if it goes ahead, would be one of the few victories on the international stage of the Obama administration before the end of its mandate. And further investment will boost the role of the Shiite Republic of the Ayatollah, once it is free of the heavy burden of international sanctions at the expense of the Saudis.

The struggle against Iran would be going on even if the country was Sunni and not in the hands of the Shiite Ayatollah. We can see this in the Riyadh government’s relations with IS. After having assisted in the birth of the IS, it is now fighting it, since IS has escaped its control to become economically and politically independent against the interests of the Saudi regime. This is despite the fact that IS and al Baghdadi profess the Sunni faith and base themselves on the sharia which is both a social as well as a spiritual guide. The laws governing imperialist interests are more significant than just who decides on the interpretation of passages from the Koran which, at most, acts as a malleable ideological cover for the socially deprived masses who are systematically called up to become the usual cannon fodder to fight for the domination of the same old butchers.


Saturday, May 9, 2015

The above article was translated from the Italian pages of our website and should be read in conjunction with the following articles on the English site.

Monday, May 18, 2015