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The Oil Factor
The Specter of Saudi Instability
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  • Kevin

    Sensible analysis.

    I wonder if the Iranians would really like what came after the House of Saud. An ISIS-like radical Sunni Arab faction seems much more likely than accommodationists to Shia Persian hegemony.

    • Ghulam Lone

      The Iranians aren’t necessarily in favor of the fall of Saudi Arabia, but they would prefer a situation similar to the Shah’s era where Saudi Arabia was the quiet neighbor that accepted its inferiority compared to Iran.

  • Fat_Man

    Today is two fer day. I repeat my comment from yesterday on the subject of Saudi Arabia.

    Saudi Arabia is not really a nation state. It is a family enterprise. It is much more like the European Monarchies of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance than like the bureaucratic states of the post Westphalian era. It could be argued that Shakespeare’s plays about the War of the Roses are more relevant to the understanding of Saudi Arabia than the output of modern political scientists.

    You can download an excellent history of the Saudi monarchy and the way power has historically been transmitted at this link:

    “After King Abdullah: Succession in Saudi Arabia” by Simon Henderson • August 2009

    Mr. Henderson’s more recent articles are listed here. They are quite worthwhile.

    Nonetheless, the family Saud seems to have found a way to control and regularize the process:

    “The Saudi succession and challenges facing Saudi Arabia” by Michael Herb • 19 August 2014

    I would be reluctant to assume that the Saudi regime will breakdown now. They are facing tremendous external challenges to be sure. But, they are a family, and families have ways of circling the wagons when they are confronted with enemies.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    It is foolish to think something can be done about the turmoil within the failing Islamic Culture and the nations it dominates. The fact is Islam is utterly incompatible with modern civilization which requires the security of Life, Liberty, and Private Property in order to function. Islam requires all Muslims to first and foremost obey Shariah Law. Shariah Law legalizes the Murder, Rape, Robbery, and Enslavement of all Infidels and Apostates, and every “Good” Muslim gets to decide who those people are. This is exactly the kind of legal code you would expect from Muhammad, a desert bandit that rose to power preying on trade caravans, and engaging in all these criminal behaviors. Modern civilization cannot exist where any criminal can wreck the mechanism of wealth creation. So, until Islamic Culture changes enough, and Cultures change at glacial speeds so it won’t be soon. The best Strategy for Modern Civilization to take, is to confine the turmoil to Islamic countries and prevent its spilling over onto them.

    The question then becomes: How do we prevent the spillover, in the shape of the murderous Jihadists continuously being spawned by Islamic Culture, out of Modern Countries? I think encouraging the Sunni Jihadists to expend all their resources on killing the Shiite Jihadists and vice-a-versa is the best strategy. It costs little western blood or treasure, and it absorbs the the continuously spawning Jihadists, and their resources. Which would otherwise be used to Murder, Rape, Rob, and Enslave innocents in the west, and thus keeps the innocent safer.

    And while yes a loss of the entire oil production of the middle east would have wide reaching effects. It is unlikely that that will ever happen, as Oil is their primary source of wealth and they will be working hard to keep it flowing. In addition, the free market will have something to say about what happens to the energy markets. Fracking would experience exploding growth as the price rose, especially since they have just spent time viciously cutting costs. Also, nuclear reactors particularly Thorium reactors are poised to make an entry into the electricity markets.

    • Ghulam Lone

      Your theory is easily debunked by the religious masses in Turkey and Indonesia who strongly support their secular and democratic states. Your view and interpretation of Islam is consistent with the literalist and fundamentalist interpretations of radical Salafis, but that is a minority viewpoint in the Muslim world. And yes, there is more than one interpretation of Islam amongst the 1.4 billion Muslims of the world,.

  • Blackbeard

    The Sunnis have the numbers but they don’t have the organization or the will. Where this ends is in the collapse of Sunni power and Russian/Iranian hegemony in the ME. Once again Obama achieves his goal of being a transformative president.

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    • Ghulam Lone

      To be honest, Iran is a less radical country than the Saudis. I know, it sounds crazy, but consider that Saudi petrodollars paid for the radicalization of millions of Sunni youths in Salafi Madrassas. Countries which used to be liberal and more secular became more conservative under Saudi influence. The Saudis have promoted extremism within the Muslim world itself, which has lead to the rise of extremist Islam. Combined with the influence of Egyptian preachers, Saudi influence has been quite corrosive in the Middle East, far more so than anything the Iranians have really done against anyone aside from their Sunni rivals.

  • Ghulam Lone

    A point of note: the author is correct to point out that the Saudis are courting the Pakistanis hardcore, but the author did not mention how the Pakistanis (probably under the influence of China) has distanced itself from the Saudis in favor of opening up ties with Iran. Hence Pakistan’s refusal to join the Saudi war in Yemen.

    Of course, Pakistan will never turn against Saudi Arabia, but its not so keen to be in the tight embrace of a Salafist state. Pakistan is starting to focus on its economy, and Iran is a much bigger economic prize than the rentier state of Saudi Arabia. And with China standing firmly behind Pakistan, their traditional dependence on Saudi Arabia has drastically reduced. In fact, it has been widely suggested that the Chinese influenced Pakistan’s decision to distance itself from Saudi Arabia. China is investing $46 billion into Pakistani infrastructure to create a trade corridor from the Arabian Sea to Western China/Central Asia. Inclusion of Iran into this project would boost returns for the Chinese, so the theory goes that Beijins’s attempts to woo Tehran have resulted in Islamabad distancing itself from Riyadh.

    Saudi Arabia is quickly finding out that the only country in the Middle East that it sees eye-to-eye on the existential threat of Iran is, well, Israel. The Pakistanis have made it absolutely clear to the Saudis that they will not antagonize Iran for the sake of Saudi Arabia. The Emiratis know this too, and are trying to court India now (although their grand commitments to in the future invest billions of dollars into Indian infrastructure is quite questionable, given declining oil prices).

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