Since the onset of Covid-19, global oil prices have been decimated, falling by more than two thirds in a matter of months, and future indexes today falling below zero, meaning oil producers are now prepared to pay to dispense of excess stock.
Saudi Arabia, one of the leading oil exporting countries and a key member of the global oil cartel OPEC, has been savaged by both the drop in oil prices and the collapse of the tourism industry. It is these two industries that underpin Saudi economic life.
The arrival of Covid-19 saw an immediate move on oil prices, and given past precedence, such moves are mostly at the behest of American instruction, even if it runs counter to Saudi interests.
Saudi has long recognised its over dependence on oil, but in the decades since, has demonstrated little ability to radically transform its economy.
When Trump came to power, Saudi immediately pledged hundreds of billions of dollars in trade deals aimed at reviving the American jobs and the American economy.
Billions were also pledged to underwrite American military adventurism in the Middle East.
Billions more have been wasted in Saudi’s disastrous campaign in Yemen.
It was the modem equivalent of highway robbery, inflicted brazenly in broad daylight upon a class of leadership whose existence is wholly dependent upon perpetual servitude. It was not a choice.
So the run on oil prices. Contrary to Saudi interests, Saudi moved immediately to force oil prices down, with one eye on a global drop in demand, and another eye on minimising the harm to the global economy (a euphemism for the American economy).
At a time when America is in a historically weak position, Saudi decided to do everything in its capacity to protect the American economy, to its own detriment.
Saudi’s economy is teetering on the edge, more than it ever has, and rather than exploiting its strategic assets, runs them down to serve American interests.
With Saudi coffers rapidly depleting, it is only a matter of time before rivalries between competing political actors explode into open conflict.
The mass arrests of MBS’s rivals is an ominous sign of what is to come.
Rumblings amongst the people are also getting louder. Long held privileges are dissipating, social dynamics are shifting, and Saudi’s ability to continue to buy loyalty is being severely tested.
It must be remembered America’s Greater Middle East Initiative involves the dismembering of Saudi into four smaller states. Bringing Saudi to its knees, after it has exhausted its usefulness, as a precursor to political change, seems to be a consistent American policy direction. Covid-19 seems to have provided America the perfect cover to advance this pursuit.
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