Saudi Arabia is insolvent? — Foreign Affairs

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"An ambitious leader never lets a crisis go to waste, and MBS is nothing if not ambitious. During the early days of the pandemic, he increased the kingdom’s value-added tax from five percent to 15 percent, and the government earmarked $1 billion in stimulus payments to Saudi businesses struggling with the economic downturn. MBS directed his sovereign wealth fund to shop for bargains on global stock markets. He even went nose to nose with Russian President Vladimir Putin on oil prices: when Russia refused to respect production limits set in 2017, Saudi Arabia opened the spigot, driving the price of oil down, very briefly, into negative territory. Even with oil prices back around $40 per barrel, the Saudis are left with only half the revenue they need to balance the government’s books. " FA

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Well pilgrims, Trumpy and Jared may love the Saudis and the murderer MBS, but I do not.   I was the Defense Attaché there for three years.  It was one of the most unpleasant experiences of my army career.  The level of social and legal restriction imposed by the theocracy was stifling.  Normal life was simply impossible.  Even as a diplomat I felt imprisoned in the embassy. For a foreigner to speak Arabic in public was most unwise because the immediate suspicion, often voiced, was that the foreigner was a SPY!

The one thing the Saudis have historically had "going for them" was the money that flooded the country from the ever flowing oil and gas stream.  Now, that is largely finito.  Good!  That means less money to use in spreading the Wahhabi cult, and less money to spend on futile fantasies like the war against the Zeidi mountaineers in Yemen.

A million gastarbeiters have left the country?  Good!  Perhaps the Saudis will learn how to do actual work.  Perhaps.  pl

https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/saudi-arabia/2020-08-04/end-saudi-arabias-ambitions

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38 Responses to Saudi Arabia is insolvent? — Foreign Affairs

  1. Avatar Jack says:

    Sir
    What’s your opinion on the dynamics that could lead to the fall of the House of Saud?
    I’m sure in an insular country like that there must be much palace intrigue and suspicions on loyalty among those that bear arms. How does MbS insure his survival?

  2. Avatar Linda says:

    It couldn’t happen to better folks

  3. Avatar BABAK MAKKINEJAD says:

    Col. Lang:
    It will be decades before the identification of Salafi ideas as True Islam is discarded.
    Decades of strife and bloodshed still lies ahead, in my opinion.

  4. Avatar upstater says:

    With “friends” like KSA and Israel, who needs enemies? These two have driven US foreign policy for decades and the smouldering wreakage of MENA is the legacy of these miguided corrupt alliances. Between the fed and Treasury we’ll be bailing out both of these monstrosities.
    Unfortunately the 2 presidential candidates promise us of more of the same. I was so hopeful that Trump might make a break, but he seems to have been a weak leader with little follow through. Biden, of course, will put these misguided alliances on steroids administered by proven losers.

  5. Avatar Richard Ong says:

    There’s a positively classic scene at the beginning of the movie “A New Leaf.” Walter Matthau’s character is visited on the golf course by his accountant who’s come to tell him that there’s no more money in his trust account. Matthau is bewildered by this news uttering something along the lines of “But I still have plenty of checks.” It’s hilarious and someone in Saudi will also soon be visiting the Wahhabi loons to tell them the party is over. Life imitates art.

  6. Avatar Polish Janitor says:

    Saudi Arabia has been in the news lately and none of them is good. One is WSJ’s report on the quasi-secret China-Saudi nuclear cooperation and the ‘Yellow-cake’ production in a secret desert facility in the country’s NW. I can already see the heat the Saudi’s will be getting from this!
    Two, is the story of the ‘Tiger Squad’ assassins who were ordered by MbS personally to pull off a Khashoggi on a former Saudi intelligence officer for his refusal to get back to the country.
    The idea of the Saudi’s march to nuclear weapons development is a terrifying idea, but the rumor is that they already have (at least) one in Pakistan. I particularly find it very strange that the Trump admin was positively ‘nudging’ the Saudis toward nuclear energy development until very recently, when Rick Perry was still in the administration! But a few days ago the official at the State Dep’s arms control and non-proliferation desk poured cold water on Saudis and made it clear that the U.S. would not let them to do funny stuff wit uranium behind their backs.
    Also of note is the part in the WSJ’s report that caught my attention and where it mentions the involvement of an Argentinian energy firm that recently set up a nuclear reactor for the Saudis and that they were very keen on developing the enrichment cycle supposedly for ‘research’ purposes and under secrecy. This reminded me of the ‘colorful’ history of Israeli-Argentine secret nuclear weapons development cooperation in the 60’s, in which Israel got its’yellow-cake’ it needed from Argentina to develop its nukes. Which begs the question that are Saudis going the same route as Israel did back in the early 60s? Why not working with Japan, Germany, France, U.S. then if it is all peaceful?
    I have had my fair share of interactions with the Saudi people. while the culture is pretty medieval with regards to social and religious matters, but when it comes to hospitality and alike they are welcoming, especially during the month of Ramadan and after Iftar, that is when they break their fasts at dusk. For the Saudis it is like a custom to be ‘extra’ generous and they donate free meals frequently to everyone.

  7. Years ago, I suggested a cyber operation to drain the royal family of their disposable wealth for the sole purpose of depriving the jihadists of further material support. Glad to see that the “invisible hand of capitalism” and the royal’s own stupidity are doing just that. I don’t want to see the royals toppled. Who knows what would replace them. But if they were weakened enough so that all their remaining resources and concentration are focused on keeping their people from rising up and ripping them to shreds, it would be fine by me. Let the jihadis be reduced to angry men in the mosque without the resources to turn their anger into meaningful action.
    BTW, this idea of a cyber operation was from SST not from my time in DIA.

  8. Avatar J says:

    While MBS’s Tiger Squad assassins were denied entry into Canada to whack former Saudi Intel type/MBS critic Saad Aljabri, MBS succeeded in obtaining a fatwa directed against Saad Aljabri.

  9. Avatar Babak makkinejad says:

    James
    The Salafist approach to Islam is not crazy, i.e. insane. It is very much like Protestanism in as much as it rejects even the theoretical possibility of a Legitimate Central Religious Authority, it rejects Tradition, it rejects the possibility of sainthood – Olya allah -, it posits that any fool can read and interpret the Scriptures, and it rejects Theoretical Reason.
    I think behind both Salafism and Protestanism appeals is a yearning for a simple moral and intellectual order that does not put too much strain on the believers’ cognitive faculties; live under these black tents, follow these rules, and you are granted redemption in this life as well as the next.
    “No need to trouble your pretty little brains to grapple with the world as you find it and not as you think it ought to be.”

  10. Avatar turcopolier says:

    Babak
    By “theoretical reason” you mean Kalaam?

  11. Avatar Babak makkinejad says:

    I meant Philosophy.

  12. Avatar Babak makkinejad says:

    James:
    I should have written:
    “…read and understand…”, rather than “read and interpret…”

  13. Avatar turcopolier says:

    Babak
    Felsafa is not highly regarded among the Sunnis because of the ancient closure of the Gate of Ijtihad. Felsafa is much more highly regarded among you Shia because you still have widely and highly regarded mujtahideen. Khomeini was a philosopher.

  14. Avatar turcopolier says:

    james
    Sunni Islam has been mostly about “literalism” since the defeat of the mu’tazila.

  15. Avatar turcopolier says:

    james
    Sunni Islam does not admit of hierarchy except within consensus groups (Ijma’). Some are large and some are small. 12er Shiism effectively is hierarchical through mechanism of the “Hawza” schools of mujtahids (Ayatollahs). i will be surprised if you understand that. Ask for clarifications.

  16. Avatar Babak makkinejad says:

    James
    Sharia is just the Laws of Islam, the concept is common to all Muslim sects and schools, the content is common.
    In my opinion, Seyyed Jamal Al Din Qazwini was not a Salafi as the worf is understood today. He was a Shia Muslim who was campaigning for a unified Muslim response to the ascendancy of the Western Diocletian civilization as well as the Russian Empire.
    He was, in the final analysis, only partly successful in his effort, in as much as they could only make sense among the Seljuk Muslims.
    Salafi ideas, in my opinion, are best understood as a response of Non-Seljuk Muslims to the Western Diocletian civilization. It reminds me of the Deobandis, another Muslim response to the Western Diocletian civilization, exemplified by Great Britain, in India.
    Both Salafis and Deobandis consider Shia Muslims to be heretics. The Wiki omits that.

  17. Avatar turcopolier says:

    babak
    “the content is common” Untrue. There are many different collections of hadith and jurisprudence that make it obvious that the content is not common among the different sects.

  18. Avatar Babak makkinejad says:

    That was a typo, meant not common.

  19. Avatar Mike46 says:

    Cuts to the welfare state will make the natives restless. Heads likely to roll.

  20. Avatar A.I.S. says:

    @ Babak,
    how much of a doctrinal difference is there between Deobandis (whom I associate with the Afghan Taleban) and Salafis?
    My impression is that both are intensely reactionary, anti Shia and anti western. A Russian arabist I talked with stated , somewhat offhandedly, that Deobandism is “Stone Age, actually middle iron age, Islamism is one country” while Salafism is “Islamic Stone Age world revolution”, which is obviously a very Soviet way to look at things, and which probably describes what the Taleban/Salafist do more then what their actual doctrine says.

  21. Avatar turcopolier says:

    A.I.S.
    Since you didn’t ask me for my opinion I will await with interest Babak’s opinion on Deobandism and Salafism.

  22. Avatar BABAK MAKKINEJAD says:

    A.I.S.
    I cannot answer your question.
    Personally, I do not care to learn the differences: they both want the Shia Muslims to be dead.
    That is all I needed to know.

  23. Avatar turcopolier says:

    Mistress of Tara
    So far as I know it has nothing to do with Shiism.

  24. Avatar Babak makkinejad says:

    Scarlett O´Hara
    May be they started as Sufis, they are not any longer.
    You think that the followers of Sufi path – Tariqat – are some sort of Enlightened spiritual Muslims?
    In Iraq, the Kurdish Yazidi women and girls were being sorted out by their largely Sunni Kurdish bretheren, who were followers of Tariqat. They showed up in masks, taking the girls away, mudering the men; ISIS was just a convenient label under which these Sufi Muslims could indulge in rapine, theft, and murder.
    You don’t believe me, ask the Yazidis.

  25. Avatar Babak makkinejad says:

    Col. Lang
    So much ignorance and the Western people wish to adjudicate- or have already adjudicated among Muslim sects.
    It would have been amusing had its consequences not been so dreadful.

  26. Avatar A.I.S. says:

    @Turcopolier
    I am interested in your opinion as well, I am also very interested in the difference between yours and Babak, I expect these to be significant but I may be quite wrong.
    My own view of Deobandism is heavily colored/influenced by the Taleban, which may be quite unfair to Deobandism as a whole.

  27. Avatar turcopolier says:

    A.I.S.
    Babak and I generally agree on things Islamic. Deobandism seems to lack the salafi sentimentality concerning the purity of early Islamic community practice and to be carefully focused on usul fiqh (the roots of the law) as a basis for action. I will be interested to to learn Babak’s opinion on this.

  28. Avatar BABAK MAKKINEJAD says:

    james
    Wiki is wrong – the claim that Deobandis teach Philosophy and Science.

  29. Avatar BABAK MAKKINEJAD says:

    Col. Lang:
    After the difference between Soft Deobandis (“Not in a Hurryn to Kill Shia Now!”) and Hard Deobandis (“Best to Kill Shia Nw.”)were pointed out to me, I lost any interest in learning anything more about them.
    Studying their beliefs is useful for Iranians authorities who must govern several hundred thousand Deobandi Baluchis in Iran.

  30. Avatar blum says:

    Years ago, I suggested a cyber operation to drain …
    Posted by: The Twisted Genius | 07 August 2020 at 09:09 PM
    draining money sources thus made sense to you? It may indeed, somehow, theoretically. … With more complex outcomes. To not use the standards, opening new routes.
    I recently pondered about the wisdom of sanctions more generally but then didn’t have time or patience to dig through on whoever or whatever is listed on the US or EU sanction lists.
    Question, if this isn’t a too personal question how many years did you spent in the military and around what time you left?

  31. Avatar Tonymike says:

    Someone does not want the house of suad replaced because you don’t know what you would get? How about democracy? The US is so quick to foist it on everyone else, foist it upon those who could benefit the most from it, the People of SA. God help them as royalty is nothing more then some guys with goons to back them up saying they are ordained by god to rule over others and sheeple fall for that nonsense. A color revolution there would do the world good and the world best if the house of suad was no more.

  32. Avatar BABAK MAKKINEJAD says:

    Tonymike
    ” How about democracy?”
    No, you will get civil war and ISIS.
    Poor Muzaffar al Din Shah!
    When confronted by the demand to sign the Ferman for Constitutional Monarchy, he asked: “If I sign this, would Iran become like France?”
    The revolutionaries said “yes.”

  33. Avatar BABAK MAKKINEJAD says:

    Scarlett O´Hara
    I do not think of Mullah Omar or his kind.
    I do feel sorry for their followers.

  34. Avatar Leith says:

    @Babak & Scarlett: “You don’t believe me, ask the Yazidis.”
    I did ask Yazidis. They said the rapists & kidnappers were Chechens and North Africans led on by Iraqi Turkmen from Tal Afar and orchestrated by Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi who is also from Tal Afar. Perhaps there were some of al-Douri’s Naqshbandi Sufi Army there, but they are Arab not Kurd.
    Although you are right that the Yazidis do have a legitimate beef with the Kurdish KRG. Barzani’s Peshmerga who were there to protect Sinjar turned tail and ran from the daeshi takeover of Sinjar. But then during the fall of Mosul so did two Iraqi Army divisions and 30,000 Iraqi policemen turn tail and run when it was taken over by 1500 daeshis.
    It was secular Kurds of the Syrian YPG and the Turkish PKK that rescued 50,000 Yazidis from being massacred or enslaved. Some Shia Kurds in Sinjar were also murdered by daeshis and a Kurdish Shia mosque there was blown up.

  35. Avatar Babak makkinejad says:

    Leith
    It was Iran led by Major General Soleimani, and Ayatollah Sistani, another Sia Iranian, who saved Iraq from ISIS.

  36. Avatar Leith says:

    I agree about Ayatollah Sistani. IMO he should have received the Nobel Peace Prize.

  37. Avatar BABAK MAKKINEJAD says:

    Yup; it was the Martians led by Major General Flash Gordon that saved Iraq from Ming.

  38. Avatar Leith says:

    Babak:
    Apparently General Flash forgot about Ming’s offspring Kang the Cruel in Syria. An al-Quds convoy just got whacked there by Daeshis only 30 to 35 km SW of Deir ez-Zor city.
    https://syria.liveuamap.com/en/2020/12-august-isis-ambushed-a-convoy-of-alquds-near-the-settlement
    Assad should send the Kurdish SDF into that area to hunt down the Salafis and keep al-Quds safe.

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