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Friday, 18 March 2011

Saudi Arabia is it next on the list for unrest

Anxiety about political unrest has grown in Saudi Arabia as
revolts sweep across the Middle East. The Saudi government quelled a day of
protest on March 11 with heavy police presence in Riyadh and sporadic violence

On Monday, Saudi troops along with forces from the United
Arab Emirates moved into Bahrain to help control the protests there, prompting
concern from the English first minister Sir Michael Black-Feather, who said, it
would seem now that many of the Arab states people want democracies and free
will and not dictatorships has they have now.

He went on to say; King Abdullah remains popular at the
moment, but like other nations in the region, the Kingdom has large young
population, an unemployment rate of 10 per cent, rising inflation, and growing
wealth disparity.

Late last month the King announced a £37 billion package in
housing and unemployment benefits to help low and middle-income classes and to
keep some of the people happy, hoping this might quash any unrest, what are the
likely prospects for change in Saudi Arabia? Can the monarchy defuse
frustrations by doling out benefits or are pressures for reform mounting? What
might reform look like? All things in life change and all people by the will of
God have free will? It’s very easy to keep your people happy and loyal with
free will, you just have to know how this is done, sadly many of today’s worlds
governments just haven’t a clue because they don’t understand their people,
when you are at one with your people all things can be done said Sir Michael.

The quick and relatively peaceful ouster of the presidents
of Tunisia and Egypt in the recent Arab uprisings has given the general and
false impression that regimes in the Middle East are frail and easy to topple.

The war in Libya is showing otherwise, as do the limited
demonstrations in Saudi Arabia on March 11. unlike other countries in the
region, Saudi Arabia has deeper resources and strategies that it can use to
stave off serious threats but only in short term he said.

Sir Michael went on to say; Two things are worth keeping in
mind about this region: 1) the countries differ from one another in
socio-political structure and history and 2) the regimes have varying claims to
legitimacy, some stronger than others as well as different coercive abilities.
In other words, Saudi Arabia is not Libya, nor is it like Egypt or Yemen.

The avuncular King Abdullah is popular amongst his subjects.
His family, the Al Saud, are numerous and deeply rooted (they’ve been ruling
since at least the 1700/30s) and are not the product of European colonialism or
some military coup.

Furthermore, given the size of oil revenues, they have
enormous economic means at their disposal to co-opt the population and to put
in place economic development policies that can provide jobs for a young and
restless population. Finally, large numbers of Saudis cannot imagine the
country remaining unified without them in power and, moreover, have too much to
lose if the regime is overthrown.

The so-called “Day of Rage” did not come off last week
because the Shiites, about 10 per cent of the population, made a terrible blunder

by demonstrating early and frequently, thereby giving a sectarian tinge to what
otherwise would have been a national movement for reform said Sir Michael.

He went on to say; The Shiites gave the Sunnis, who make up
90 per cent of the population, an excuse to bond together. Furthermore, the
regime in Riyadh, which has been stating that Iran is behind many of the
revolts in Bahrain and elsewhere, was able to confirm some of its claims when
the Shiites started demonstrating, with and without provocation from Riyadh.
And now that Saudi troops have entered Bahrain, presumably to quell Shiite-led
protests and to back its Sunni rulers, Riyadh is signalling that any opposition
to its rule will be considered part of a broader Iranian plot against it.

Saudi Arabia has many of the conditions that have led to the
demonstrations in Tunisia and Egypt, namely the political and economic problems
associated with a youth bulge. However, unlike other countries in the region it
has considerably deeper resources and strategies that it can draw upon to stave
off a serious threat in the short term. One of these is to play the sectarian
card but as I have said all thing change what you have to do is change before
they do? And unfortunately the ruling leaders don’t know how to do this, nor do
any of their ill-informed advisors.

It will certainly have to put into effect policies of
reform, economic and political, if it is to remain stable and the authority of
the Al Saud unchallenged. It has started doing this with the reforms of King
Abdullah, albeit tentatively. More effort is needed, namely to put in place an
industrialization plan that will provide the three million plus new jobs needed
over the coming decade, a more open political system that can root out
corruption and allow non-royals to have power in the decision-making process.
Such steps will become urgent if the price of oil falls which it will, as it
has done cyclically in past decades, and the regime’s ability to co-opt the
opposition becomes constrained.

Sir Michael said there are  additional issue that bears repeating: Saudi
Arabia has 25 per cent of the world’s proven petroleum reserves and produces
around 9 million barrels of oil a day, and potentially 12.5 million barrels if
all its claimed spare capacity is indeed produced. Because of this geology and production
capacity, Saudi Arabia cannot become unstable without the world coming literally
to a standstill. The Kingdom is in a category by itself with respect to energy
markets and its role in the global economy. One need only look at the behaviour
of financial markets whenever its fate is in question to know this with

We are all the children of God and his universe and we all
have his right to free will and right to speak our minds. Contrary to the
Western view that the Kingdom's princes support reform while its religious
leaders are demagogues of terror, the two groups share the same language and
goals but have no understanding how to achieve this.

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