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Special Report

Saudi Police Open Fire During Protest

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," March 10, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(CROWD SHOUTING)

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Saudi police today opened fire to disburse a protest in a section where minority Shiites live. At least we're being told one man was injured as the government really tightening its efforts to prevent this sweeping unrest and ahead of a crackdown possibly on protests after Friday prayers tomorrow throughout the oil-rich kingdom.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: And this is affecting the markets most people believe. You look at the Dow today, down 228 points, that's the worst showing in seven months. We're back with the panel. Pete, I guess, a lot depends on what happens tomorrow. But this indication with the firing in to the crowd today suggests that this thing could get violent.

PETER WEHNER, COLUMNIST: It could get violent. And if the protests are strong then the Saudis will crack down. And that's the kind of regime that it is.

I must say if you just step back, this is extraordinary, this is a real historical inflection point that we're living through. And to see this, it's like a giant wave, that's sweeping the entire region, some countries I think have 20-foot walls for 100-foot waves and others may be taller. But the kind of -- there's a faux security that has been in place. And it's falling apart. People warned about, this President Bush did five, ten years ago. And we are now seeing it happen. And whether it happens all at once we'll see. But this is an extraordinary moment.

BAIER: Karen, the president will have a news conference tomorrow at the White House. We learned that late this evening. Some suggest that that may be to clean up Director Clapper and the Libyan situation, but you would expect that he would be asked about the rolling out of these protests including in Saudi Arabia.

KAREN TUMULTY, WASHINGTON POST: Well, yeah. The oil markets right now are on an absolute hair trigger with what is going on in the Middle East. In fact, ya know prices have gone up something like $30 a barrel in the last month. And nobody really knows what is going on inside of Saudi Arabia.

But one thing we do know about them, they are the one country in the world that can turn on a spigot and solve everybody else's oil problems. And I think that is making people very nervous about this, what kind of effect this could have on the state of our fragile economic recovery.

BAIER: Steve?

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, the concern I think, if you look - if you talk to regional experts people really don't, as Karen says, they don't have any idea if this is going to be a massive protest, the kind that we saw in Egypt on January 25 or if it's going to be, ya know, smatterings in different cities because people are afraid because the Saudis have cracked down on these kinds of things so forcefully in the past.

But if you are the Saudi regime right now and you're looking at lessons and you're looking at how to apply what you have seen in the past couple of months, ya know, it portends bad things potentially for tomorrow if there are massive turn-outs, because, in Egypt you saw Mubarak essentially send out a few dozen thugs on camels and not have much success putting down -- in putting down the protests. What you are seeing in Libya with Qaddafi flying fighter jets at will killing his own people, seems to be, as Clapper said, working much better.

BAIER: Pete, the Associated Press describes it this way. "Saudi security forces have deployed around the capital of Riyadh on the eve of these protests tomorrow. Witnesses reported seeing riot police and special forces with batons and tear gas canisters particularly around shopping malls and main roads."

If this builds in this "Day of Rage" tomorrow, the administration is in, again, a tough, tough spot about pro-democracy, what do they say, how do they say it, in such an area like Saudi Arabia.

WEHNER: Well that's right. I mean look, this administration has been passive even with the regimes that are anti-American, Iran and Libya. So one, presumably, would assume that they're not gonna weigh in on Saudi Arabia. I agree with Steve, this could be quite bloody. And the is history is that authoritarian regimes, sometimes they don't crack down hard enough and they lose power, like Egypt. But Iran in 2009, cracked down with real brutality and they are still in power. I worry that the Saudi regime is closer to Iran than Egypt.

BAIER: Karen, do we have a sense how big or supportive the Shiite minority is in -- I mean in numbers they are a majority, but how the opposition groups are stacking up, so far, in Saudi Arabia?

TUMULTY: I don't think we do have a very clear picture of this, but we have seen the government sort of try everything but democracy here. They've essentially tried to buy the people off. A month ago, they were giving interest free loans. Whatever they are offering these protesters aren't buying. And I think that is a very big question, here, just what exactly their demands are gonna be and how far they're gonna move to, you know, resolve them.

BAIER: Defense Secretary Gates traveled to Bahrain, or was traveling to Bahrain just across the bridge as this thing seems to be rolling on. There could be questions in a number of different countries in that area.

HAYES: Yeah, absolutely. And I think the question that the people in the region, leaders in the region are wondering, is will the United States try to shape the outcomes or will they, as they have been largely in the past, be passive and let the outcomes unfold and then, ya know, pick a side or try to shape what the predetermined outcome? That seems to have been the pattern so far. It'll be hard to -- Who knows will what'll happen tomorrow?

BAIER: We will follow it all tomorrow, the president's news conference and developments from this "Day of Rage" in Saudi Arabia. That's it for the panel. But stay tuned. We can always count on local news.

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