Saudi reform watch

Do you ever get the feeling that when it comes to reform, the Saudi elite’s heart just isn’t in it?

Just a few days ago King Fahd approved the establishment of a non-governmental national human rights advisory panel.

Analysts in the Arab world say the creation of the official non-governmental organization is to show the kingdom cares about human rights and is meant to impress decision-makers in the West and elsewhere.

Andrew Sullivan, for one, was impressed, calling it “[m]ore evidence of some positive developments in the Arab-Muslim world after the liberation of Iraq.”

Now comes what appears to be a truer sign of the Saudi rulers’ attitude toward those pesky reformers.

Saudi Arabia detained several prominent reformers Tuesday in a move their supporters described as a major setback to democratic change in the conservative Islamic kingdom.

An Interior Ministry source, quoted by the official Saudi Press Agency, said the men were being questioned for issuing announcements that “do not serve national unity or the cohesion of society based on Islamic sharia law.”

None of the detained appear to be al-Qaeda operatives or sympathizers.