07 June 2016

The Saudi Gambit


Earlier this year PBS' Frontline put out a documentary on Saudi Arabia. Frontline is a good show when it comes to covering domestic controversies. I have found it to be seriously lacking and rather slanted when it comes to covering anything international. I usually feel like I'm watching a propaganda video issued by the State Department.

The video was particularly disappointing because it provided virtually no context. It was critical of the House of Saud and rightly so but did nothing to explain why the regime behaves as it does.

It talked about their ultra-conservatism, Wahhabism and sponsorship of schools (madrassas) etc... but didn't explain why the extremists hate the house of Saud, why the Sauds are perceived to be morally compromised, how they don't have complete control over the religious forces in their country or why they ride the dangerous line, permitting extremism and yet at the same time fearing it.

When it comes to the price of oil, the video only talked about their economic woes resulting from low prices but offered no discussion as to why the Saudis, the dominant force within OPEC would continue to increase production in the face of low prices. Everyone knows that a cut in production reduces supply and will force prices to rise. If that doesn't apply in this case, then why not?

There's obviously a tactic in mind. We can debate the 'what' or the 'why' but Frontline left its viewers in the dark.

It was murky on the geopolitics as to why the Saudis are involved in Yemen, or the tensions with the Shia community and Iran. The fact that the video totally omitted the tensions in Bahrain was telling. Bahrain is of course the home of the US Navy's Fifth Fleet and a sensitive topic.

Why is there a great struggle with Iran? What's the context? Why are the Saudis in Yemen and why is the United States selling them arms and providing them logistical support and intelligence? We might also discuss the presence of US troops in Yemen, the drone war etc...

But there was next to nothing on these topics. Frontline certainly isn't going to turn to anyone outside of the US regime mouthpieces or Establishment media for information.

Saudi Arabia is evidently in a state of preparation. They are posturing themselves geopolitically. Greater conflict is on the horizon and the struggle for control of the world's oil is about to grow more vicious.

Again if the Peak Oil scenario is applicable here, the present events certainly make a lot of sense. The winners will survive and the losers will face economic stagnation, collapse, civil war and ultimately invasion followed by conquest and fragmentation.

The regime is in a precarious position, trying to ride the line between exercising its power, using its resources geo-strategically and yet at the same time keeping its own population under control.

The Saudi-Aramco IPO is a move to diversify its ability to generate funds as well as create a measure of security. It weds them further to the system of finance capital and the hubs of power but also provides further incentive for those centres of power to maintain in interest in upholding the regime in Riyadh. If the Saudis flood the markets with that kind of money, a regime that was already 'too big to fail' will become sine qua non to the world economic system. The IPO represents a form of insurance for the regime.

The world will continue in its hypocrisy, permitting the Saudis to brutalise their population while their Western protectors look the other way. Riyadh is just as brutal as ISIS but ISIS isn't invested in Wall Street. US presidents will lecture other nations about their human rights records but the Saudis are more or less off limits. If anything said, it is not meant and essentially ignored.

All that said it isn't hard to imagine a day when the United States will 'flip' on the Saudis. It's almost inevitable. We've seen it happen all too often. The US will back a dictatorial regime until there's some kind of uprising. They'll stand with them until the breaking point, a point in which it's determined that there's no going back, no way to heal the wound and return to status quo ante. At that point the US utilises a proxy to stage a coup or quickly works to subvert the coup, either winning the new regime over or quickly working to undermine it.

However Saudi Arabia is different, a significantly more sensitive situation. It is the nation that hosts Mecca and Medina, a land that is viewed as 'holy' to a large and very volatile segment of the world's population.

If it wasn't, then the Saudi regime would likely have been toppled back in 1973 when the US talked about invading and quite literally taking it over. Instead the US cut a deal with the Saudis and established the very tight relationship that continues to exist to this day.


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