Libya Standoff as Saudi Quivers and Iran, Iraq under Pressure
by Juan Cole
Saudi Arabia, the world’s major swing producer, is afraid of unrest itself and attempting to buy off its own population, so needs the extra money for this purpose. Saudi Arabia had traditionally attempted to hold prices down, because its vast reserves meant it could always make its money in the future, and its relatively small population (22 mn. citizens) left it with limitations on its economic absorptive capacity, i.e., it couldn’t put a lot of oil profits to work in its own domestic economy.
So the Saudi government is handing out $37 billion, all of a sudden, to its people for housing and unemployment relief.
Saudi authorities on Tuesday detained a Shiite clergyman in the Eastern Province who preached a sermon calling for a constitutional monarchy. Shiites are probably about 12 percent of Saudis and are culturally and politically repressed by the Wahhabi establishment, which typically views them as idolaters. Had the call for constitutional monarchy come from other quarters, it would be more significant, since it is hard to imagine Wahhabi-Shiite political unity. Unrest among Saudi Shiites might affect the oil-rich Eastern Province where they mostly reside, but the Saudi state has significant repressive capacities in that area.
To Read the Entire Report