Truthngo interview with Mohammad Isa Al-Khaqani Lecturer at Freelancer, Chief Editor at Al Ahad Newspaper and Professor at UOB | University of Bahrain
Q: In recent weeks, Muhammad Bin Salman was appointed as the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. Given Bin Salman’s aggressive and radical approach to Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy, could we possibly establish a link between Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia and the political changes in that country? Do Donald Trump and his international security team welcome the radicalization of Saudi Arabia’s aggressive foreign policy in the Middle East, and specifically toward Iran?
In order to answer this multifaceted question appropriately, we should first make a distinction between different aspects of the question and, then, analyze each aspect separately. We cannot definitively claim that Mohammad Bin Salman’s appointment as the Saudi Crown Prince is due to his radical and aggressive approach since the former Crown Prince, Mohammad Bin Nayef is himself a fanatic Wahhabi and one of the biggest supporters of Wahhabism. He is even allegedly the godfather of ISIS, being known among them as Asad al-Sunnah; which is a nickname he has inherited from his father, Nayef Bin Abdul-Aziz. This fundamentalist figure set up a program known as Munaseha for ISIS prisoners in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which propelled Wahhabi fanatics and ISIS members toward Iraq and Syria, and western governments benefited from this program for a while. However, since the damage caused by the militants covered by Munaseha shifted from the Middle East to Europe and the United States, and Brussels, Paris, and London were hurt, Europe and the U.S. came to regard this program to be unacceptable. In this regard, with the green light of the United States, Mohammad Bin Salman discarded Mohammad Bin Nayef who had been expired. But, why did the United States choose Mohammad Bin Salman as the Crown Prince? In my view, this 31-year-old unexperienced young prince, who does not even have a complete faith in Wahhabism, has been chosen to change the political structure in Saudi Arabia. As we know, Saudi kings must be chosen from among the sons of Abdul-Aziz Ibn Saud, who as the founder of Saudi Arabia is praised even more the Prophet of Islam among Wahhabis. However, the youngest living sons of Abdul-Aziz are currently more than eighty years old, and the United States needs someone capable of changing the political structure in Saudi Arabia. Mohammad Bin Salman demonstrated that he is capable of arranging theatrical performances in the holly – and conservative – city of Mecca and setting up a ministry entitled the Ministry of Entertainment and Tourism to promote tourism and entertainment and propel the Saudi youth toward modernism and westernization. Mohammad Bin Salman will become a king in near future as the mental capacities of his Father, King Salman, have been undermined due to his Alzheimer’s disease. To run the largest oil producing country in the world, this young prince is strategically and politically in need of a powerful opponent; an opponent which he can face down and thus prove that he is the right man for this challenging period in the history of the House of Saud rulers. Iran is the opponent which the United States has selected for Mohammad Bin Salman because (I) Iran is not and Arab nation, (II) it does not have a Sunni population, (III) it is regarded as a major player in the region as a large military power, and (IV) it influences the affairs of Arabic countries in political and military manners. Therefore, Bin Salman needs to prove himself to the United States and Arabic nations by reinforcing the aggressive policies and proposing to shift the location of war to inside the borders of Iran. He put this intro practice with an ISIS attack which target Imam Khomeini’s shrine and Iran’s Parliament. This inexperienced lad showed that he can be an excellent poppet for Americans.
Q: Since the advent of ISIS as an example of Takfiri terrorism, Islamic Republic of Iran has been in the forefront of the fight against ISIS; nevertheless, during Trump’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia, both sides accused Iran of supporting terrorism while Saudi Arabia, as the godfather of Wahhabi-Takfiri terrorism, and the United States, with its double standards for fighting terrorism, are themselves fueling terrorism in the region. How do you evaluate the strategic collaboration in Saudi Arabia and America’s anti-Iranian policy?
In my opinion, Saudi Arabia has signed a contract with a wealthy American businessman called Donald Trump with a very specific objective: to always keep Iran at the alert state so that Israel can benefit as much as possible; a new Israel which has experienced Iran’s striking power after its defeat from Hezbollah in July 2006 and has been constantly asking the United States to eliminate this threat to its existence, claiming that Iran is supplying long range missiles to the Syrian regime and Hezbollah. The United States has no better agent than Saudi Arabia in the region to face down Iran. In return for America’s help to Saudi Arabia and Israel, Donald Trump, a wealthy businessman, who carries the title of “president” asks for money from Saudi Arabia and the political support of the American Jewish lobby from the other. This exchange has not done any harm to Iran so far and, in my view, it will never do.
Q: During the political conflict between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, Saudi Arabia accused Qatar of sponsoring terrorism as well as supporting Iran and Hezbollah, while Saudi Arabia’s tarred reputation in supporting terrorist groups in Syria is clear to everyone. How do you see this double-standard in facing terrorism in Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy?
After the dismissal of Mohammad Bin Nayef as the Crown Prince of the House of Saud, Mutaib Bin Abdullah, son of the former king, and Muqrin Bin Abdulaziz who have a priority to receive the title of Crown Prince joined forces with Nayef’s sons to implement a revolution led by Nayef in the ruling family, but unfortunately, this revolution failed to achieve the desired outcome. As a result, these princes faced home incarceration by Mohammad Bin Salman, but the incidents in the Ministry of Interior and National Army and the fact that the former supports Bin Nayef and the latter sympathizes with Mutaib Bin Abdullah cannot be covered up overnight; indeed, these two powerful military entities are actively opposing Mohammad Bin Salman. They arranged a military attack targeting King Salman’s palace in Mecca, which unfortunately did not succeed. This internal unease and turbulence in Saudi Arabia propelled Mohammad Bin Salman toward a foreign plan and, this time, he confronted a country which does not dare attack Saudi Arabia. It is worth noting that Saudi Arabia and Qatar have conflicts about a variety of issues such as the mapping of border lines between the two countries and certain international issues. From time to time, these conflicts escalate and undermine the bilateral relationships, and therefore it was not difficult to provoke the other side using these conflicts so as to distract the public opinion and direct people’s attention to outside the country.
Q: In light of international human rights and the humanitarian claims of the west, especially America, how do you analyze the signing of a multibillion dollar weapons and defense stock deal with Saudi Arabia, given Donald Trump’s tradesman-like foreign policy, and Saudi Arabia’s military invasion of Yemen and massacring the defenseless Yemeni civilians? Can one talk about the decline of humanitarian values in America’s political structure?
I view this within the framework of the Justice against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA). As you know, the Senate and House of Representatives approved JASTA with the majority of votes after the president’s right for vetoing Congress’s legislation pertaining to the lawsuit against Saudi Arabia was revoked. According to the Justice against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, families of the victims of the September 11 attacks have the right to ask the Saudi government for indemnity.
To clear up the accusation of sponsoring terrorism, Saudi Arabia spent 500 billion dollars on this, giving the money to Trump; then, Saudis accused Qatar of sponsoring terrorism. In my view, since Trump is dealing with these countries with the ethical principles of a corrupt businessman, he will put JASTA into practice soon, in order to obtain even more money from Saudi Arabia.
Q: According to an Israeli source, Saudi Arabia has announced its readiness for normalizing relations with Israel. Meanwhile, Israel has supported Saudi Arabia’s stance against Qatar. Do you think that improving the relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel is the real reason behind Saudis’ sanctions against Qatar, or close relations between these two nations only indicates the preferences of the White House?
In fact, Riyadh and Tel Aviv have been having not only a good relationship but an excellent one for many years. In the past, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, had referred to the improvement of relations between Israel and moderate Arab nations in the region as a way for the advancement of peace. As such, the improvement of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia has probably had an influence on the decisions of Riyadh and its allies to marginalize Doha. Avigdor Lieberman, the Defense Minister of Israel, had previously told that the diplomatic divide between Qatar and other Arab countries in the Persian Gulf region will lead to opportunities for collaboration because Israel, just like Saudi Arabia, is fed up with Al-Jazeera and wants to close down this television station’s office in Israel. The Times Newspaper has reported from Saudi and American sources that the scale of economic and business relationships between the two countries will be limited to items such as the possibility for Israeli companies to operate in the Persian Gulf region and allowing Israel’s national airline, El Al, to fly within the Saudi airspace. The future of the relations between Riyadh and TelAviv even shadowed Trump’s government. During the recent visit of the American delegation to Riyadh, Jared Kushner, Trump’s senior advisor and son-in-law and Mohammad Bin Salman, the Saudi Crown Prince, took a very similar stance and regarded the relations between the two nations as an important step for the implementation of peace between the Palestinians and Israel; while, Trump’s visit to Tel Aviv right from Riyadh has significations far from peace between the Palestinians and Israel.
This interview in Arabic: