News Analysis |
Massive gun bursts were heard by Saudi residents living near Royal Palaces in Riyadh on Saturday evening, leading to speculations of an attempted coup. Soon after, mystery unfolded as the government issued a statement explaining the cause as shots fired by royal guards at toy UAV which was hovering over neighboring houses to Royal Palaces. The drone was observed by the guards stationed at a checkpoint in Al-Khozama neighborhood where a palace, belonging to Saudi Monarch King Salman, is located. The guards immediately shot down the drone given the possibility that the drone could have been carrying an explosive payload, but fortunately, it turned out to be unarmed.
Saudi Arabia: No Drones Land
The Saudi civil aviation authority in 2015 banned the use of remotely controlled drones “of all types and sizes” without prior permits. Saudi Arabia is in the middle of formulating policy regarding RC drones and in the meanwhile, instructed drone enthusiasts to apply for a permit to fly in the specified areas.
Since the time when fracking technique has been excessively employed on a global scale, the supply of oil has increased significantly resulting in the lower petroleum prices.
Saudi airspace has been frequently invaded by ballistic missiles coming from Yemen in recent times. The security level of important government installments and those belonging to Royal family, such as this one, is already on high alert. Though Kingdom has survived any major political turnaround, even during the times when Arab Spring clouded neighboring Arab countries, everything is not-so-normal in Saudi Arabia.
Dissent against “rebranding of Saudi version of Islam”?
At a time when Saudi Royals are the target of incoming missiles across the border from Yemen, there also a dissent among some fundamentalist countrymen of Prince Mohammed bin Salman who do not seem to agree with “rebranding of Saudi version of Islam”. Since he has been nominated as the Crown Prince by King Salman, Saudi Arabia has undergone massive changes in the socio-economic paradigm. For the first time in history, Saudi Arabia has realized the counter productiveness of centering the economy simply on the extracted shale oil. Since the time when fracking technique has been excessively employed on a global scale, the supply of oil has increased significantly resulting in the lower petroleum prices. Aiming to drive the economy away from “Natural Resource Curse”, Prince Mohammed Bin Salman announced that the Kingdom will be building a mega tech city with whopping $500 billion investment, something which could be called as Saudi Arabia’s very own “Silicon Valley”.
But it is not the economic initiatives which have caused dejection at domestic level in some factions of Saudi society. Prince Mohammed’s plan to transform it by steps such as allowing open-air music concerts, cinema halls and allowing women to drive is not welcomed by everyone in Saudi Arabia. Security of Royal Palaces and figures were already on high alert fearing a backlash from religious hardliners after Prince announced how he wants to see the future of Kingdom.
The drone was observed by the guards stationed at a checkpoint in Al-Khozama neighborhood where a palace, belonging to Saudi Monarch King Salman, is located.
Resistance to the new policies?
In October 2017, a Saudi national identified later as Mansour al-Amri drove his vehicle to Al-Salam Royal palace and opened fired on Royal guards on duty with his Kalashnikov. Though he was shot dead on the spot without any collateral damage, still the incidents hints at the plausible resistance to new policies. Even in the latest event, immediate speculations and rumors of a coup by a rogue faction of Royal guard, which surfaced online via social media, suggests that a similar outcome is very much considered possible by people keeping a close eye on the affairs inside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Footage shared on social media appeared to show heavy shooting that lasted for at least 30 seconds, sparking speculation of political unrest.
Saudi Arab has remained a fundamental Muslim state for a very long time. The deviation in the norms, from what Saudis experienced for a very long time, within a very short time span could lead to terrible outcomes. At a time when Kingdom is facing growing influence of its arch-rival Iran right next to its southwestern border, an internal rift, which has the potential to transform into a civil war, could be disastrous for the future of Monarchy and state itself.