Saturday, January 16, 2016

Will Saudi Arabia Cause More Destabilization in thr Middle East?

Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
One hears constant blather from Republicans about the danger that Iran and/or radical Islamic extremists pose to America, yet they continue to ignore perhaps the largest source of extremism and unrest in the Middle East: Saudi Arabia.  All but one of the 9-11 hijackers were Saudis and no nation spends more supporting the export of extremist Islamic belief than Saudi Arabia.  Why the blindness?  Sadly, because America and to a mach larger extent is European allies still are dependent on Saudi oil.  If the Middle East is a threat to American and western interests, the fastest way to end the issue overall is to find alternative energy sources that would make the Saudis and their oil irrelevant. Then, rather than backing the international export of extremism, the Saudi royals would have to contend with a popular uprising as revenues plunged.  A piece in the Washington Post looks at a Saudi royal whose visions - or more likely delusions - of grandeur could spell more trouble for the world.  Here are highlights:
Late last year, Germany’s intelligence service issued a stern warning about Saudi Arabia: King Salman and his 30-year-old son, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, want to become “the dominant rulers of the Arab world,” it claimed.

The entire region could be destabilized by their quest and the internal power struggles under way in the kingdom, the memo said.

When King Salman’s reign began a year ago, Mohammed quickly began accumulating “more power than any prince has ever held, upending a longstanding system of distributing positions around the royal family to help preserve its unity,” the New York Times reported.

The prince was appointed defense minister in January and was named deputy crown prince in April, “putting him second in line to the throne and ensuring that the kingdom’s future rulers will come from Salman’s own branch of the extensive royal family,” The Washington Post reported at the time.

Despite the fact that Saudi Arabia does have some elections  — last month, women were allowed to vote and run for office for the first time in municipal elections — the country remains an absolute monarchy.

As defense minister, Mohammed is overseeing a troubled Saudi-led coalition in neighboring Yemen that has been battling Iranian-aligned rebels since March. “The war is draining the Saudis militarily, politically, strategically,” Farea al-Muslimi, a Yemen analyst at the Beirut-based Carnegie Middle East Center, told The Post’s Hugh Naylor.

The Saudi-led coalition “has repeatedly struck houses, schools, and hospitals where no military target was in sight,” wrote Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director for Human Rights Watch.

As oil prices plunge, the Economist noted that the prince’s “most dramatic moves may be at home. He seems determined to use the collapse in the price of oil … to enact radical economic reforms.”

The lifestyle of the young prince — and that of many of the kingdom’s young royals — has apparently annoyed some Saudis. Reports of his “lavish parties in the Maldives and the crown prince’s house-hunting for a Sardinian villa worth half a billion euros are fodder for social media, of which Saudis are keen users,” the Economist also wrote.

Ford M. Fraker, the president of the Middle East Policy Council and a former United States ambassador to Saudi Arabia, told the New York Times that the “The king has put his son on an incredibly steep learning curve, clearly.”
The main rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran stems from a longstanding curse of mankind: religion.  It's a case of Sunni versus Shia - a rivalry and hatred that goes back over 1000 years.  Iran has a long history of empire going back over 2300 years - perhaps not coincidentally, the greatest periods were prior to Islam - while the Saudis were impoverished nomads until oil changed the calculation.  Population wise, Iran has some 81 million people versus the Saudis' 31 million.  Which nation is the better to court as a friend and ally?

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