Monday, January 21, 2013

Arab Spring in Saudi Arabia? Ex-CIA Bruce Riedel's Warning To Obama

Bruce Riedel, former CIA analyst, counter-terrorism expert and special adviser to NATO who knows his Middle East, has a message for Barack Obama and it's quite alarming.

He believes there's a possibility that Saudi Arabia is headed for its own Arab Spring, and that it would not bode well for the region. In a letter posted on the Brookings Institution website, he writes in his memo Revolution In Riyadh:

TO: President Obama

FROM: Bruce Riedel

Saudi Arabia is the world’s last absolute monarchy. Like Louis XIV, King Abdallah has complete authority. A revolution in Saudi Arabia remains unlikely but, for the first time, due to the Arab Awakenings, it has become possible. The Saudi royal family has unique strengths and legitimacy; the Kingdom was founded in the 18th century as an alliance between the royal family and an austere Islamic preacher whose followers still partner with the House of Saud to govern the state. Almost alone in the Islamic world it was never conquered by European imperialism. The King is the Custodian of Islam’s two holiest cities. And it has the world’s largest oil company and the world’s largest oil reserves. This combination of religious piety and vast revenues has so far been sufficient to stave off the kind of unrest that has shaken much of the Arab world in recent years.

Nevertheless, revolutionary change in the Kingdom would be a disaster for American interests across the board. As the world’s swing oil producer, prolonged instability in Saudi Arabia would cause havoc in global oil markets, setting back economic recovery in the West and disrupting economic growth in the East. Saudi Arabia is also America’s oldest ally in the Middle East, a partnership that dates back to 1945; the overthrow of the monarchy would represent a severe setback to America’s position in the region and provide a dramatic strategic windfall for Iran. The small oilrich monarchies of the Gulf would be endangered, as would the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

Read his recommendations to Obama here.

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