By Richard Walker
While the Middle East has suffered through a momentous year of turmoil and change, Saudi Arabia has largely remained insulated from any uprising. This is primarily due to the country’s vast wealth and power, which it has used to buy allegiance from its own people, quash dissent and build the second most powerful military in the region after Israel.
At the insistence of Washington, the Saudis have promised countries like China and India they will increase oil production to make up for any global shortfall should hostilities against Iran stop that country’s oil from flowing. Such a move is designed to encourage countries that do business with Iran to support sanctions and possible war.
All of this speaks to the way Saudi Arabia’s autocratic rulers have plotted and used their enormous wealth to keep themselves insulated from the vast movements demanding change throughout the region. Internally, they have kept dissent at a minimum, using a carrot and stick approach. The carrot takes the form of free housing for newly married couples and increased wages in the public sector. The House of Saud announced in 2011 it planned to spend tens of billions of dollars to modernize housing, education and sports facilities and create enough jobs for all its citizens.
In contrast, the stick is the internal security apparatus. It has sophisticated surveillance capabilities allowing it to maintain extensive files on every individual in the country. It also possesses absolute power to arrest, detain and torture anyone the country’s leaders deem a threat.
But you will not hear about this in the Western press, as the Saudis have also endeared themselves to Israel by muting criticism of the country as well as by doing business with Israeli arms suppliers and hi-tech companies.
The outcome of all of this is that a regime, which gave the world one of the most extreme forms of Islamic teaching, namely Wahhabism, has behaved as it pleases. It has tortured prisoners in its secret jails and denied women basic rights. Now it is being applauded for being a partner in Israel’s plot to bring down the Iranian regime.
Richard Walker is the pen name of a former N.Y. news producer.