The U.S. and regional autocrats are repeating their policy stance from the so-called Arab revolutions against the current Sudanese protests and follow an interest-based strategy backing military rule
In Saudi Arabia’s war chest, one of the tried and true ways to protect their throne from various threats, including the threat of democracy, is to write a check. And I call it war chest because the democratic struggle is seen as saber-rattling by the House of Saud. In order to defang this enemy, Saudi Arabia goes to horrible lengths to prevent the heat of democratic struggle from reaching it. If neighboring countries get funny ideas, such as a right to a democratic government, freedom of expression, the rule of law and so forth, the Saudis and Emiratis never fail to preemptively reach out and throw their weight behind the enemy of their enemy.
Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, was slaughtered “Pulp Fiction” style inside the Saudi Consulate in Turkey. Others like Iyad el-Baghdadi have been warned of a similar fate by the CIA. However, there is always some external limit to every negative tendency. Everyone cannot be executed based on a whim. Therefore, the Saudis have loosened their war chest and placed the order for the Sudanese revolution.
Role of Saudi Arabia, UAE and US
If rhetoric was the real indicator of a country’s democracy-supporting credentials, the United States would stand out as the true defender of democratic ideals. That has been the image in the minds of many people because that is what Americans say – and they say it repeatedly year after year, decade after decade, reflexively. However, if actions were really to speak louder than words, which I don’t believe is ever the case, especially in politics, then the United States and United Kingdom duo or the United States and Saudi Arabia duo would stand alone as the true players deterring democracy abroad.
In the wake of the so-called Arab revolutions, the United States as well as the Saudis came down on the side of the regime of Hosni Mubarak of Egypt until it became impossible to protect him and then the United States joined the side of the Tahrir Square crowd and started behaving as if it was always on their side. The Saudis aggressively came to the defense of the regime in Bahrain, where most people are Shiite, but the regime has been Sunni. Saudi and Emirati troops were allowed inside Bahrain by the Bahraini regime to safeguard against the threat of people demanding democracy. It was violently crushed.
The U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, which has been stationed in Bahrain since the mid-1990s, has been the key to projecting American power in the region and ensuring safe passage of oil to global markets. Regime change through democracy could have brought a democratic government, which may or may not have allowed the continuous stationing of the Fifth Fleet. The “devil-you-know is better than the devil-you-don’t” mindset prevailed here too. Simply fill in the rest.
We are now witnessing the same phenomenon in Sudan. The street protests followed by the military’s role as well as the U.S. and other regional autocratic powers’ response to it is the same déjà vu all over again. Omar al-Bashir has been removed from power and sent to prison, bringing his three-decade reign to an end. However, the jubilation was disrupted when the old guard crept back in quietly, the usual epilogue to stories of democratic struggle. The military helped remove al-Bashir from power but are now reluctant to just hand over the power to the civilians, who started this revolution. The people’s brief joy was replaced with frustration and desperation. Alex de Waal, a Sudan expert at Tufts University said, “It’s basically al-Bashir’s henchmen taking over. It stops a civil war among Sudan’s rivalrous military oligarchs, but it won’t satisfy the demands for democracy.”