Robert F. Worth
New York Times, 5 April 2014
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — When this country’s ultraconservative clerics make news, it is often for embarrassing reasons: unleashing fatwas against soap operas, for instance, or declaring Mickey Mouse to be a “soldier of Satan.”
Lately, however, one of the kingdom’s best-known religious figures, Salman al-Awda, has been making a very different kind of trouble.
Mr. Awda had something akin to a conversion moment during the Arab uprisings of 2011, and since then has become a passionate promoter of democracy and civic tolerance. He has more than 4.5 million followers on Twitter and several million on his regular YouTube broadcasts, making him a significant thorn in the side of the Saudi monarchy. He can be dangerously blunt, at least by Saudi standards, and the government has made its displeasure clear, barring him from print media, television and foreign travel.
“The gulf governments are fighting Arab democracy, because they fear it will come here,” said Mr. Awda, a 57-year-old cleric with a reddish henna-dyed beard and an air of slow-moving serenity. “Look what they have done in Egypt — sending billions of dollars right after the coup last summer. This is a gulf project, not an Egyptian project. And the Saudi government is losing its friends. If it continues on this path, it will lose its own people and invite disaster.”
Phi Beta Iota: The US Government continues to lack a grand strategy — or any form of holistic analytic concept of the world — threats, policies, opportunities, true costs — at the same time that its primary foreign policy attribute is support for 42 of the 44 dictators on the planet. Revolution is indeed brewing, in the USA as much as abroad.