(SUDANOW) - Despite the confusion related to recent developments in Saudi Arabia, but one thing is becoming crystal clear. For all practical purposes Saudi Arabia has entered into a new phase of setting up its Fourth State.
Unlike the first Saudi state 1744-1818 and the second state 1824-1891, the current third one founded by Ibn Saud, and the fourth, currently being established, is breaking new grounds. This new ground ventures away from a long tradition that was based on rotating the throne between the sons of Ibn Saud, a legitimacy standing on an alliance between the royal family, the religious establishment and the tribes, work out consensus between various family factions and adopt a cautious regional and international approach.
However, due to pressing changes taking place domestically, regionally and internationally King Salman decided to prepare for the third generation of grandsons of the royal family to take over. This generation is to deal with mounting socio-economic problems of this millennium, where 70 percent of the kingdom’s population are below 30 years and where the old rentier system will no longer be sustainable. Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman, who became the face of the new drive through his Vision 2030 that hopes to wean the kingdom’s dependence on oil, is also taking measures unthinkable before like trimming religious extremism or detaining some princes on graft accusations, a move that rocks more than six decades of balance and consensus approach.
If things go as planned Crown Prince Mohamed, 32 years old, have several decades to rule. Only time will tell how he is going to perform, but the impact of what is going on inside the kingdom is having its rippling effect in the region. One of the direct effects is the paralysis that has befallen on the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the question marks now hangs over the upcoming GCC summit scheduled to be held in Kuwait next month.
Sudan is one of the countries that is going to be affected by what is going on in Saudi Arabia. One of the first casualties is the much trumpeted agreement between Sudan and the GCC countries and was expected to be signed between the foreign ministers, but that is no longer the case. That may not be a disastrous development given the fact that relations on bilateral levels could continue with the six GCC states.
More serious is the new tendency to confront Iran on the regional level from Yemen to Qatar to Lebanon. That is posing a serious question before Sudan, which has dropped its old connections with Iran to line with the Saudi-led camp. And the question now before Khartoum is whether it will go all the way with Riyadh in this confrontation with Iran and the potential impact of that on its fragile domestic front.
However, there is a political angle that is yet to unfold and it relates to the Ansar Al-Sunna, who call for the monotheism “tawhid” and true faith along Wahhabi standards. Ansar Al-Sunna became a recognized body in the Sudanese political scene back in the 1940s. Year 1967 represents a landmark when late King Faisal of Saudi Arabia, who was visiting Sudan at the time inaugurated the first mosque for Ansar Al-Sunna in the country. Over the years and with the help of Saudi backing, the movement expanded gaining political weight that paved the way for it to join the government despite its clash with the mainstream version of Sufi Islam in Sudan.
One of the main questions aired is to what extent the vision of Crown Prince Mohamed of cracking down on extremism will be translated on ground and how that will impact proxies like the one in Sudan? One possibility is that Sudan being nearby across the Red Sea and with a relatively strong Wahhabi base could be a good refuge for many of those who feel alienated of what is going on in the kingdom, but equally possible, if that is to happen, the new drive in Riyadh will not tolerate such development and have a potential opposition mushrooming in its western front.
For the first time since it became an independent state, Sudan looks with caution and worry across the Red Sea, where a destabilizing wind could be blowing. To face up to this new challenge the only option is to go back to the old rule of consolidating the domestic front and pay the required political price for that purpose.
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