The diary of a Saudi man, currently living in the United Kingdom, where the Religious Police no longer trouble him for the moment.

In Memory of the lives of 15 Makkah Schoolgirls, lost when their school burnt down on Monday, 11th March, 2002. The Religious Police would not allow them to leave the building, nor allow the Firemen to enter.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Heir to the Throne 

The problem with democracies is that you don't know who is going to be the next ruler of your country. Instead you have ballots every now and then, it's just like playing Bingo, and it's all a surprise. But with our system, we can see who's coming down the line, there's a certain horrible inevitability about the whole thing. When King Fahad was on the throne, we knew that next in line was Abdullah, than Sultan, then Nayif. And sure enough, when Fahad turned up his toes, in stepped Abdullah - a nice enough guy, but a bit colorless, not a mover and shaker, and he'll never set the world alight. But hopefully he'll outlast his two brothers, because the next two are definitely from the shallow end of the Saud family gene pool, the murky bit where the pondweed gathers and the frogs lay their spawn. Those readers who are also serial polygamists will sympathise because, as you will appreciate, King AbdulAziz's DNA was definitely getting watered down towards the end of his quadruple career as father of Saudi Arabia, King, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, and Spreader of the Al-Saud Seed. You'll know what it's like as you get towards the end of your reproductive career, you feel a bit like that champion racehorse who's been put out to stud too long - they keep bringing in some eager young filly, and while it might have been great fun when you could still run three miles without breaking sweat, nowadays you can't even go three minutes without breaking wind, and all you want to do is have a snooze in that shaded corner of the field where the nice green grass is. So when it gets to something like Princess Number 31, not only can you not remember her favorite brand of shampoo, nor her birthday, you can't even remember her name, and you're just trying to squeeze out the last drops of your manhood like that old tube of toothpaste you've grown so fond of.

So that accounts for Prince Nayif, or "Nasty Nayif", or "The Prince of Darkness", whom I've featured many times on this blog. But there is also his older brother, appropriately named Sultan, because he shares all the humility, modesty and sheer common touch of his namesakes who led equally useful lives in their Turkish Ottoman seraglios.

They made Sultan head of Civil Aviation, a great mistake for an overgrown dork and plane-spotter who was able to replace his Airfix models with the real thing. Swimming against the airline tide of reduced costs thru increased standardization, he got Saudi Airlines to buy virtually every airplane type produced on the USA's west coast, requiring enormous subsidies, but hey, it wasn't long since you filled your gas tank was it? Certainly the three passengers on the otherwise empty MD80 from Riyadh to Tabuk would like you to know how grateful they are for their ridiculously cheap fares.

But it is when he opens his mouth that his intellect and wisdom really sparkle. I had collected some of his gems earlier. On the dangers of elections to Saudi Arabia's "Poodle Parliament"....

....elections might pave the way for some illiterate persons, albeit supported by their people, to join the Shoura.

On the freedom to campaign politically....

Referring to the political campaigners arrested earlier this week, the defense minister said they were “outlaws who have revolted against their fathers and the country...Five of them have been released. As for the rest, we pray to God to guide them (to the right path),” he said, without specifying how many remained in detention.

On Civil rights....

People need not fear arrest provided they adhere to Islamic teachings, work for national security and keep away from “deviant foreigners”, he added.

"Deviant foreigners"? Here's a clue....

Prince Sultan declared himself satisfied that Washington would not impose democratic reforms on any country in the region, blaming the “Jewish-controlled US media” for playing up a US “Greater Middle East Initiative”

Anyway, not to be outdone by his brother Abdullah, Sultan has also been doing the Grand Culinary Tour of Asia. It was supposed to be about diplomacy, but we'll soon see what sort of a diplomat he is. He shared some thoughts with accompanying journalists....

Describing the legal system in the Kingdom as the best in the world, he said great efforts had been made to carry out reforms.

What a diplomat indeed. All the legal systems in your tin-pot little countries are inferior to that of the pinnacle of legal excellence, Saudi Arabia. What do you think about that, Khamys Mushayt Girl, still awaiting execution for killing your rapist? Or the Physics Teacher sentenced to 3 years and 750 lashes for witchcraft, now thankfully reprieved? Ask the so-called "Booze Bombers", still with the scar tissue on the soles of their feet from our civilised use of "Bastinado". Or more recently, the restaurant owner sentenced to 90 lashes for - gasp - employing women? (Who sensibly has now "done a runner" out of the country; thanks "Russ"). So no, Sultan, let me explain this patiently. "Best" does not involve hiding the most people for the longest period of time while inflicting the most depraved practices on them. And if becoming King depended on an exam, you've just scored 1/10 for Civil Rights and Legal Systems. We'll pass on the diplomacy, perhaps it was an unguarded moment, we'll give you another chance.

So let's try him now on Economics and Industrial Development.

He also referred to the government’s efforts to eradicate unemployment among Saudi men and women and urged the private sector to cooperate by employing Saudis in large numbers. “There will be no unemployment in the Kingdom after five years.”

So let's see. The most conservative estimates puts male unemployment at more than 25%. And of course female unemployment is 95% plus. On top of that, we're backing off the Saudization campaign because all our young men want to be fighter pilots and "managers", certainly not handle wood or concrete or plumbing or metal or electrics or glass or cloth or trash or bodily fluids. We're not growing any industry and we have no program of technical innovation. And yet there will be zero unemployment in five years? 1/10 again, and that's being generous.

So he'd be a disaster on internal policies. But perhaps he is a diplomat after all? Just the man to win friends and influence people abroad? This one is especially for you readers from Singapore, because there were 168 visits from you in the last 7 days! So what does Sultan think about your Island Country?

On a question about facilitating Saudi businessmen’s entry to Singapore without visas, the crown prince said: “I discussed this matter with the Singaporean authorities and told them that you are a developing country but you deny yourself the support you need.”

I'll carry on for a bit while our friends from Singapore fall about, choking with rage and / or laughter. For those of you who have not been there, and I am fortunate enough to have done so, it is an island at the end of Malaysia, three or four times the size of Washington DC, with a population of 4.5 million. It is a parliamentary democracy and manufacturing / trading / financial center with an unemployment rate of 3.3% (Saudi Arabia 25%+ (and that's only males!)), its literacy rate is 93% (Saudi Arabia 78%), and its per capita domestic product is $29,900 (Saudi Arabia $12,900, most of which comes squirting out of the ground by the grace of God). My own personal impression was that it is almost Paradise on Earth; a mixture of modern and well-preserved-old, clean, litter-free, great public transport, fulfilled hard-working people, no poverty or squalor that I could see, and the A's loved the night-time walk around the Zoo!

So for Sultan to say that, he not only gets a straight 0/10 for Diplomacy, but if there were some sort of Nobel Prize for arrogance combined with stupidity combined with sheer ignorance, then he must win it. Sorry about that, Singapore, he's just one of our royals and he doesn't know any better.

But, as they like to say in the United States....

I bring you, all the way from the dankest methane-emitting sediment at the bottom of the shallow end of the Al-Saud gene pool, Crown Prince Sultan, deputy premier and minister of defense and aviation, and....

....next King of Saudi Arabia!

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