Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Saudi Arabia may be moving out of the US orbit

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The problem is that Saudi Arabia really dislikes democracy, and the US keeps pushing the idea. Juan Cole has an interesting report at Informed Comment:

The royal family of Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy with no constitution and no elected legislature, is in a snit about US foreign policy. King Abdullah doesn’t like even the mild American criticism of the Sunni Bahrain monarchy’s brutal crackdown on the majority Shiite community in that country. He is furious that President Obama went with the Russian plan to sequester Syria’s chemical weapons rather than bombing Damascus. He is petrified of a breakthrough in American and Iranian relations that might permit Iran to keep its nuclear enrichment program and allow Tehran to retain a nuclear breakout capacity, which would deter any outside overthrow of the Iranian regime. Those are the stated discontents leaked by Saudi uber-hawk Bandar Bin Sultan.

Behind the scenes, another Saudi concern is that the US likes democracy too much. Washington ultimately backed the Arab upheavals that led to the fall of presidents for life in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen. Saudi Arabia hated this outbreak of popular politics and parliamentary competition. It connived with Egypt’s generals to roll back gains in Egypt in favor of more authoritarian rule. It has just cut off Yemen because the post-Saleh situation there isn’t developing its way. Only in Syria do the Saudis want regime change, and there it is because they want to weaken Iran and depose a Shiite ruling clique in favor of a fundamentalist Sunni one.

The Saudi royal family is looking for a different model of politics in the world, one where absolute monarchy and hard line Wahhabi fundamentalism wouldn’t look out of place. America is not it. They have been toying in Riyadh with a pivot to China. An unelected Communist Party that has taken the capitalist road and desperately needs Saudi petroleum has started to look good to the king. Beijing would make no annoying demands to open up Saudi politics. And if a Riyadh-Beijing axis could be established, Iran’s favored position with the Chinese might be cut back. Saudi Arabia is after all a much bigger oil producer and much less problematic as a trading partner.

Why should the US care if Saudi Arabia wants to abandon its special relationship with America? Oil.

The world produces about 90 million barrels of petroleum a day. Saudi Arabia produces about ten percent of that amount. And, it exports most of what it produces (unlike the US, which produces a similar amount but uses it all and half again as much). . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

23 October 2013 at 8:58 am

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