One of the greatest ironies of the recent popular Arab uprisings was that when these were just beginning, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad offered advice to the Arab rulers on what they should do to avoid their people rising up against them, setting his own regime and leadership as an example. He noted that his utilization of the slogan of the resistance and fighting Israel had gained him the trust and confidence of his people, in comparison to the rest of the Arab rulers [who did not enjoy their people’s confidence]. Al-Assad made these statements commenting on events in Egypt and Tunisia, whilst no doubt alluding to other “moderate” Arab states.
One of these moderate Arab states – Saudi Arabia – weathered the storm of popular discontent with flying colours. In fact, the situation in Saudi Arabia transformed into a patriotic carnival, with trust in and allegiance to the ruling regime being reaffirmed. Not only did this storm not harm Saudi Arabia, but it benefited it. Meanwhile, we can see the flames of rage rising in Syria as clashes continue to intensify in the Deraa governorate.
President al-Assad’s words and theories about the immunity of revolutionary regimes [to popular uprisings] have lost their verbal effect, as the resistance rhetoric has become less and less capable of keeping the audience calm and in their seats.
What happened in Saudi Arabia surprised everybody, including the international press who sent its correspondents and photographers to cover the expected scenes of rage and anger in the Saudi streets. However despite the eagerness of foreign correspondents to witness a day of public rage, the day passed by peacefully. Afterwards Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz addressed the people of Saudi Arabia, expressing his pride in them. He then announced a package of royal decrees to shake off stagnation and offer radical solutions to the problems of housing and others, as well as offering a two-month salary bonus [to all governmental employees].
The Saudi streets were, and indeed continue to be, overjoyed by this package of royal decrees.
As for those who have issued political demands that they insist be implemented immediately, including demands of Saudi Arabia being transformed into a constitutional monarchy with far-ranging and comprehensive elections to be held on all levels, they must ask one question. Isn’t it true that they mistakenly read the situation in Saudi Arabia? Did they truly believe that their demands were representative of the will of the Saudi Arabian street?
It would be easy to say this, and believe that those who made such calls simply misread the whole situation. However this would mean that reform [in Saudi Arabia] has reached its final destination and that no other fields require reform or development.
This is not true, for the process of political and administrative reform in Saudi Arabia has been ongoing since the establishment of the state. At times, this process has moved at a staggering pace, whilst at others it slowed to near standstill, however nobody has said that the mission has been accomplished or is even close to being accomplished, as this would be against the nature of life and living.
I believe that Saudi Arabia still requires reform, particularly in the fields of public participation, and administrative reform, but this does not require the rashness displayed by some over the past days.
The rhythm and timing of the decisions in Saudi Arabia continue to be made according to the country’s internal clock, rather than the timing of what is happening abroad. The fact that the different powers in other countries have begun to attack one another, despite all the grand talk, is a testimony to Saudi Arabia’s internal clock. In the end, the criterion of success is contingent upon the facts present on the ground rather than any championed slogans. What happened in Saudi Arabia inspires confidence and a sense of reassurance. We hope for more to come.