Saudi Arabia's Dilemma

Israel having been recognized by Arab Emirates with Bahrain adjacent to KSA following the suit; Tel Aviv is bracing for achieving a big breakthrough of getting recognized by KSA for which the kingdom apparently seems to be in a denigration mood. Albeit the Imam of Grand mosque of Ka’aba, Abdul Rahman Al Sudais reckoned as an official mouth piece of Saudi Government has accentuated the need and advantage of Israel’s recognition by the Arab Muslims in his preceding Friday sermon; the problems accosting Saudi Government are really stark and stern.

The KSA is facing a vertical decline in oil economy marred by the Covid-19 pandemic and lack of an alternative trade and technology based economy. Saudi Arabia’s fragile national security comprising a total of 0.127 million (1 lakh and twenty seven thousand) armed forces including the most sophisticated Royal Guards has ostensibly failed to counterfoil Huthi rebellion backed covertly by Tehran. The only alternative option remaining is that of the aerial onslaught of the rebel safe havens which have seen civilian killings amid ravage and desolation decried as human rights violation by the human rights groups and the UN human rights commission as well.

This has earned her a bad name. The conundrum is that KSA has not deliberately evolved a strong national army with a larger man power despite claiming world’s third largest defense budget together with a hefty economy in the past amongst the entire Islamic world; fearing an military coup that might ensue in the end of dynastic monarchial rule. This forced KSA to seek army assistance from Malaysia, Sudan and a few Gulf States to eradicate rebellion threat from Yemen that eventually failed to yield result; and the alliances broke away with Malaysia and Sudan being no more a partner in the state of conflict. Pakistan declined to send her troops to join Saudi Arabia and Emirates led war in Yemen.

The Kingdom, since then has been unabatedly under attack from Yemeni rebels. The recent augmented drone and missile attacks including one on Abha airport that damaged some civil airlines planes and the second one that destroyed several civilian vehicles killing a few and critically injuring five others has fostered the worries of the kingdom. But at the same time it is serving an advantage for Tel Aviv in transforming the growing threats into real pressure tactics on the Kingdom to seek refuge under her shadow through her recognition.

While crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman is supposedly to have readied the authorities to welcome Israel in Riyadh the ruling senile octogenarian King Shah Salman is reckoned to be an obstacle. The Israel’s recognition issue is believed to have brought the Father-Son duo to toe the confrontation line. King Salman is obviously aware of Saudi Arabia’s incredible standing as the centre stage of Islamic world with the possession of the holiest shrines of Haram Al Kaaba and Haram Al Medina. He would not like to buy an abominable position and place for KSA in the Muslim world.

Lobbies working closer to him do not want to render Saudi’s religious standing threatened and imperiled if Israel was recognized. Notwithstanding, the King’s and the strong religious clergy‘s concerns the crown Prince wants to follow Emirates crown Prince Mohammad bin Zayid. The would be King of Saudi Arabia, MBS, is profoundly impressed by the way Emirates has managed to emerge as a non-oil based economy and a world hub of business and trade with the top most world corporations investing huge amount of money in Dubai, and perhaps in other cities too.

The crown Prince’s concept of non-oil based economic revivalism named as Vision-2030 is supposed to bring home the bacon by catching up with Dubai’s mammoth economic system and set up. Being inclined to his economic reformation policy the Kingdom has begun to socially reform the country a couple of years ago with more liberty granted to women and ending up restrictions on beauty contests, opening of cinemas, photo shoot of models and reducing foreign worker intake capacity to ensure indigenous Saudi people’s engagement in different areas, coupled with certain changes in tax rules to benefit Government. Political analysts believe that Israel’s recognition by Bahrain had Saudi Arabia’s covert nod.

If this is held true then the other neighboring Arab States of KSA must be in the offing to accept Israel and only then Saudi Arabia would enact to pretend experiencing pressure to recognize Israel. Tel Aviv is zealously working for it, leaving nothing unturned to embark on entering in to diplomatic ties with Riyadh. The diplomatic spat between KSA and Pakistan on Saudi’s policy paradigm shift towards India, and a stern resentment to Pakistan’s volition to join hands with her arch rivals Turkey and Iran involving Malaysia and central Asian States to forge a new Muslim alignment that is strongly perceived by Riyadh to drag her to the background; it might have ended up in the withdrawal of strong 70 thousand Pakistani service men in the military of Saudi Arabia.

This has consequences for Pakistan that would lose a large foreign exchange vis a vis 26 lakh Pakistani workers including doctors, engineers, technologists, and a large chunk of labour class workers. Saudi Government may face no problem to search for substitutes which she may get from India, Bangladesh, and Philippines. However, it would be too early to comment, because the damage control measures between the two countries are taking place for reconciliation. Reconciliation is a compulsion of both KSA and Pakistan for both have cardinal stakes in each other. Pakistan’s Military presence in Saudi Arabia is essential to ward off impending threats to her national security inevitably making it difficult for Riyadh to spoil relations with Pakistan, whilst Israel’s recognition by KSA may find an end to Pakistan’s role in her national defense.

Present day Arabs appear to have chosen a path of Egypt which after a humbling defeat in 1967 Arab-Israel war, started thinking for a reconciliation that ultimately led Anwar Sadaat to recognize Israel in 1979, to attain peace for his national interests to prevail. The deal was given the name of peace treaty. But with this treaty having been effected Egypt, then a front line Arab Nation, lost her berth of a leader nation across the Islamic world. The situation today is murky that would get clearer by and by particularly after the ageing King Salman ceases to live.

Perhaps Arabs have started contemplating Israel as a realty that can no longer be resisted. Israel’s presence in Emirates has placed Tehran on tenterhooks as her security concerns are for real. Pakistan too, on the other hand, sharing a long border with Iran has reasons for being obsessed particularly on its national security issue, and the safety of its dream CPEC project. It is asserted that Israel’s recognition by KSA would for certain throw Pakistan into the lap of realignment of new Muslim world order initiative of Turkey-Iran-Malaysia-Central Asia  with complete backing of China and Russia.

Dr. Muzaffar Shaheen is a Professor at SKUAST- K