SHAFAQNA (Shia News Association) — One of the main problems with Saudi Arabia’s political system is that there is no pre-defined mechanism for the transfer of power. Efforts by the ruling elite to resolve the problem, including Saudi King Abdullah’s formation of an allegiance council, have failed due to disputes inside the Al Saud family. The other major problem is the ambiguous nature of power sharing in Saudi Arabia’s political structure. The second generation of the Saudi monarchy is now embroiled in a power rivalry, which many believe will lead to the country's collapse.
Saudi rulers are trying to conceal the power struggle, but the recent escalation of disputes over choosing the crown prince and other major governmental posts clearly proves the political vulnerability of the leadership.
In a move to counter the negative effects of the internal disputes, the monarchy has expanded its foreign policy interventions. This policy has failed to calm internal protests and people are continuing to take to the street to express their legitimate demands.
The extremist idea of Wahhabism and its influence on the ruling family is another major problem that seriously damages governance in the country. It is the main source of Saudi’s anti-Shia policies that have precipitated wide-spread concern among its religious minorities.
Shias living in the eastern parts of Saudi Arabia are dissatisfied by the current political atmosphere and have repeatedly protested against the bias against them. The Saudi government preaches democratic values to other Arab states, while it remains busy suppressing calls for the recognition of people’s rights within its borders. Herein lies the paradox of a government that is seen by many to be the next place for a second wave of the popular Arab uprisings to take root.
The unrest continued after a gunman was killed during an assault against a police station while four policemen were injured in a separate attack against their patrol in eastern Saudi Arabia, home to the Shiite majority, it was reported Saturday. "Four masked men entered with their motorcycles to the police station in al-Awamiya where one of them threw a Molotov cocktail while the others opened fire on the building," said the spokesman of the Ministry of Interior, Mansour al-Turki, who was quoted by the official SPA news agency. "The guards returned fire, killing one assailant while his companions were able to flee," he said.
The attack, which occurred in the Shiite city of al-Awamiya, occurred Friday night, less than a week after the death of two Shiite demonstrators in clashes with police in the district of Qatif (east of the kingdom), following the arrest of a Shiite cleric, Sheikh Nimr Baqer Al-Nimr, known for his harsh criticism of the Sunni authorities.
Mr. Turki warned that police would not tolerate "the rioters, especially those who are armed," and would act against those who support them.
For their part, 37 Shiite clerics issued a statement in which they attributed the tensions in the east to "the policy of religious discrimination that the government and official religious authorities have implemented for decades."
At the same time, they urged the youth to "stay away from violence" and "not respond to those trying to provoke you and drive you to violence to label your movement as a terrorist." They also called on the authorities to "release political activists (...) including Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr."
In a separate statement released by SPA, the spokesman for the Interior Ministry said that on Friday night "two patrols of the security forces came under fire from gunmen on motorcycles in the city of Saihat ", noting four members of law enforcement were wounded.
The eastern of Saudi Arabia, an oil-rich region where the majority of residents include two million Shiites, has been rocked by sporadic unrest since March 2011. The unrest turned violent from the fall of 2011, as nine people have been killed since.
The demonstrators were protesting against the military assistance by Saudi Arabia to the ruling Sunni dynasty in Bahrain for the repression of Shiite demonstrations there. Saudi Shiites also feel discriminated and have been demanding equal treatment in employment and social benefits compared to the Sunni majority in the kingdom.