January 7, 2016

...AS THE OLD MAN'S MAJOR PRIZE:

Saudi Arabia's Fragile State (David Ignatius, January 06, 2016, Washington Post)

Saudi Arabia is a frightened monarchy. It's beset by Sunni extremists from the Islamic State and Shiite extremists backed by Iran. It's bogged down in a costly and unsuccessful war in Yemen. And it mistrusts its superpower patron and protector, the United States, in part because of America's role in brokering the nuclear deal that ended Iran's isolation.

Countries that feel vulnerable sometimes do impulsive and counterproductive things, and that has been the case recently with the Saudis.  

Compounding Saudi Arabia's external problems is its internal ferment. King Salman's ambitious son, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 30, has devised a plan for modernization and economic growth, with input from McKinsey & Co. and other global consultants. The plan makes all the right recommendations: boost private enterprise; diversify the economy away from dependence on oil exports; reduce the stultifying role of the Saudi state. But these reforms would challenge powerful senior princes and disrupt a society that is resistant to change.

A defensive, anxious Saudi leadership tried to show its resolve with last week's execution of 47 extremists. Though global attention was focused on the death of Shiite cleric Nimr Baqr al-Nimr, most of the executed men were Sunni radicals who were allied with Islamic State, al-Qaeda and other jihadist groups. Some Saudi-watchers think that killing Nimr was partly a cover for the execution of the radical Sunnis. Regardless of the motivation, Nimr's execution was a mistake.

The Sa'uds were never going to survive the WoT, which was premised on universal self-determination in the Middle East.  The declining significance of oil and the official alliance of Christianity and the Shi'a just hastens the inevitable.  

Posted by at January 7, 2016 12:05 PM

  

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