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Saudi Arabia Has Become a Geopolitical Loose Cannon

March 19, 2018 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

Saudi Arabia’s thirty-two-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin
Salman is touring the West seeking to buy arms and encourage
investment. A stop in Washington was mandatory.

The de facto ruler of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, known as MbS,
has been busy wreaking havoc internationally, punishing political
enemies domestically, loosening social controls at home, and
burnishing his image abroad. Amid rising opposition to
Saudi-generated carnage in Yemen, the Trump administration appears
to be abandoning proliferation concerns in seeking to sell nuclear
reactors-even as it complains about Iran’s presumed nuclear
ambitions.

MbS presides over a virulently intolerant authoritarian
theocracy, but no matter. His modest social innovations-most
notably allowing women to drive and opening cinemas for
everyone-have created the image of a Western modernizer, allowing
him to accumulate a host of besotted liberal groupies, such as
New York Times columnist Tom Friedman.

The Saudi state is an artifact of Western militarism and
imperialism, growing out of the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire
after World War I. Abdul Aziz ibn Saud eventually fulfilled his
lengthy quest to unify the peninsula. Discovery of oil in 1938 gave
his country an unexpected international importance.

Why does Washington
continue to embrace the Saudi royals? Its relationship with the KSA
is embarrassing, counterproductive and unnecessary.

Four decades ago the Islamic revolution in Iran, which inspired
Shia in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s eastern provinces, and
seizure of Mecca’s Grand Mosque by Islamic extremists caused
the monarchy to turn its theocracy in a totalitarian direction. The
royals enforced the Wahhabist clergy’s fundamentalist
interpretation of Islam in return for the latter urging obedience
to the Saudi state. Hence, ruling princes mixed private libertinism
with public piety, treated women as inferior, prohibited non-Muslim
faiths, and deployed the mutawa, or religious police. Also, they
provided large-scale subsidies to spread Wahhabism abroad, through
mosques, schools, teachers and textbooks.

The result was a decrepit, corrupt gerontocracy undermining
virtually every Western value and interest. However, the doddering
monarchy, passed among the aging sons of ibn Saud, possessed oil
and money aplenty. This earned the regime plenty of affection in
the West, and especially the United States.

And so it went with only minor variations until January 2015
when King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud died. Salman bin Abdulaziz
al-Saud, now eighty-one, became king. Within two years the latter
broke with tradition and installed his favorite son, Mohammad bin
Salman, as crown prince.

MbS took firm control, brutally crushing any potential
opposition. He transformed an inefficient but collegial monarchy
into a far more ruthless but stunningly incompetent administration.
So far, however, pervasive failure has only encouraged MbS to
double down, usually to the detriment of anyone not a member of his
faction …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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