Saudi Arabia’s state expenditures for this year are an impressive 41% over the original budget. The Saudis have been spending money as only the Saudis (and Americans) can–buying weapons, giving mass foreign aid grants, and shoveling money into their population. Despite this, the state will run a surplus of nearly $100 billion dollars. It’s all a paradoxical consequence of the Arab Spring. The Saudis had been very pessimistically budgeting for $60 a barrel oil (a price unseen for regional index Dubai Crude since mid-2009), even though it was at $90 a barrel at the beginning of the year. Then the uprisings happened, investors got nervous, Libya stopped producing and the market tightened up. Oil hit $120 at the end of April. The Saudis are suddenly flush with money and more able than ever to push counterrevolution and stabilization wherever they please. That’s the paradox: the more unstable the Middle East becomes, the more regimes there are able to fight instability.
Tag Archives: bahrain
US President Barack Obama’s recent Middle East policy speech confirmed the allegation that the Bahraini government has been bulldozing mosques:
. . . What we will oppose is an attempt by any group to restrict the rights of others, and to hold power through coercion and not consent. Because democracy depends not only on elections, but also strong and accountable institutions, and the respect for the rights of minorities.
Such tolerance is particularly important when it comes to religion . . . America will work to see that this spirit prevails -– that all faiths are respected . . . In a region that was the birthplace of three world religions, intolerance can lead only to suffering and stagnation. And for this season of change to succeed, Coptic Christians must have the right to worship freely in Cairo, just as Shia must never have their mosques destroyed in Bahrain.
I was confident in my sources when I made my post a few days ago on the subject, but became less certain when directly challenged on the matter by Bahrainis, who assured me that this was all an opposition hoax. Obama’s confirmation, however, can be trusted–the US, with its huge numbers of personnel in Bahrain, would have abundant ability to confirm the bulldozings on its own, without the aid of the open sources I used. Obama had no reason to make these remarks if they were untrue–they would rile up the Bahraini opposition (creating further risks of instability) and anger the Bahraini government. Obama’s speech did not include any major policy changes, besides the $2 billion dollar assistance program for Egypt (an extremely sensible move), but his remarks against the Bahrainis and against America’s frenemy Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen were stronger than those of the past. The US has changed its tone on the Arab Spring, going from cautious calls for peace to open support of the protesters to an open military intervention on their behalf.
Al Jazeera is reporting that Bahrain’s government has initiated a policy of destroying Shiite mosques throughout the country. According to the main opposition party, al Wefaq (which is Shia in sect and Islamist in orientation), 28 “mosques and religious institutions” have been destroyed since the revolts began two months ago. Those conversant in Islam do not need to be reminded that this is an extraordinary step, one that will be deeply offensive to Bahrain’s Shiite majority.