By Jonathan Power*
How can Saudi Arabia be brought low? If the King won’t remove from power his 33-year old son, Prince Mohammad bin Salman, there may be no alternative but to do battle (non-violently) with its regime.
There seems to be no doubt that it was bin Salman who gave the order to murder Saudi Arabia’s dissident journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.
This is not the only reason to take up (non-violent) arms against Saudi Arabia. Others are its massive buying of Western military hardware. Another is its war in Yemen where it has killed tens of thousands of civilians. Another is that it still follows the intolerant strictures of the Wahabi sect of Islam.
In 2015 the German vice-chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel, publicly accused Saudi Arabia of financing Islamic extremism in the West and warned that it must stop. He said that the Saudi regime was funding extremist mosques and communities that pose a danger to public security.
Thanks to Wikileaks we know that Hillary Clinton, when Secretary of State, wrote a cable in December, 2009, that “Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for Al-Qaida, the Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan.”
In his autobiography, Richard Dearlove, the former head of MI6, the British Secret Intelligence Service (home of James Bond), wrote that some time before 9/11 Prince Bandar bin Sultan, then the powerful Saudi ambassador in Washington, told him that “The time is not far off in the Middle East when it will be literally ‘God Help the Shia’. More than a billion Sunnis have simply had enough of them.”
Another is the evidence that it is considering developing nuclear weapons. On November 22, the New York Times in a dispatch by David E. Sanger and William J. Broad asked if bin Salman was “laying the ground work for building an atomic bomb”. Saudi Arabia may have arranged to buy an already made bomb from Pakistan whose own successful nuclear weapons’ program was funded in part by Saudi money. Pakistan called it the first “Sunni bomb”.
What’s to be done? Sanctions have already been imposed by the U.S. on 17 Saudi officials close to bin Salman. Bin Salman has been spared. Trump has made clear in public the reason for this is because Western countries need its oil and, second, the arms market is too lucrative to pass up.
The truth is that, although enormous, the sales are only a small percentage of America’s total arms production. It could be forsaken.
Oil is more problematic, but a boycott of part of its production is doable. Already oil prices are substantially below the country’s financial needs. Its financial deficit is dangerously high say the IMF. This is the time to hit it.
The price of oil needs to be driven down. This means other oil producers increasing the production. The first place to start is Iran whose oil industry is savaged by American sanctions. The second is Russia. Other countries that could increase their production are Nigeria, Mozambique, Angola, Ghana and Uganda. They’ll need Western help.
Western countries, with a minor increase in taxes, could reduce the consumption of oil significantly.
Would Saudi Arabia retaliate? Why would it? It needs income badly. It can’t afford not to sell as much as it can.
Let Saudi Arabia suffer until bin Salman is sacked and brought to justice.
Note: For 17 years Jonathan Power was a foreign affairs columnist and commentator for the International Herald Tribune – and a member of the Independent Commission on Disarmament, chaired by the prime minister of Sweden, Olof Palme. He forwarded this and his previous Viewpoints for publication in IDN-INPS Copyright: Jonathan Power. Website www.jonathanpowerjournalist.com.