Saudi Arabia considers itself as the leading nation of the Arab world and at times the entire Muslim world. Most Arabs and most Muslims do not agree. Saudi Arabia is indeed a country that many Arabs hate and many Muslims have grown to reject because of the extreme and intolerant religion called Wahhabism which is practised in the Kingdom. Wahhabism bares little resembles to the peaceful, brotherly religion that is mainstream Islam.
In spite of its wealth, Saudi Arabia might not be around forever. Here’s why
1. Oil Dependency
Even then, the cut benefited Iraq and Iran more than Saudi. With non-OPEC states like Russia becoming world energy producers and the United States moving further towards regaining energy independence, oil is unlikely to have another price boom.
Even at this early stage, Saudi society has felt the economic pinch. Last year Saudi Arabia contemplated introducing a first ever income tax on citizens. The outcry forced Riyadh to step back but new taxation on foreigners was introduced.
Saudi Arabia’s wealthy economy is almost entirely dependent on oil sales. Without oil, the otherwise resource poor country with an extremely regressive education system has nothing to offer the world and consequently nothing to offer its own people. The desert Kingdom is furthermore a cultural wasteland.
Ever since the oil price boom of 1973, Saudi Arabia has relied on effectively buying off its wealthy classes in order to create the veneer of stability. Beneath the illusion of stability there are people who could easily grow rapidly discontented if the black gold of the desert kingdom were to dry up.
When the oil loses its value, Saudi Arabia loses its economy. It would become Yemen with much more debt.
2. Growing Isolation in the Arab World
Although deeply compromised, Iraq is dominated politically by Iran leading Shi’a Arabs. Saudi Arabia’s funding of the ISIS and al-Qaeda militants that have ravaged Iraq has made Saudi increasingly hated in Iraq. This is especially the case in the southern Shi’a provinces of Iraq in places like Basra.
Syria’s secular Republic has come under direct attack by the same Saudi funded militants that ravaged much of Iraq and as a result, the vast majority of Syrians loathe the Saudi regime.
Consider Saudi Arabia’s proxy war in Yemen. No other Arab country has come to Saudi’s aid. It is only non-Arab states like Britain and America who are involved on Saudi Arabia’s side. The contempt with which Saudi Arabia has treated its follow Arabs is not unnoticed even in countries like Jordan and Egypt. If a wider war were to break out against Iran, for example and Saudi Arabia, even fellow Sunni Arab states would likely not get involved.
3. Iran would destroy Saudi Arabia In A War
Saudi Arabia’s recent threats against Iran are not only foolish but they border on the insane. Iran’s military is vastly superior to that of Saudi Arabia.
Iran has a fully professional large, highly trained, loyal and increasingly well armed fighting force. Saudi Arabia has an expensively armed force of pilots who can barely fly their American air craft and Saudi soldiers are often the butt of jokes throughout the Arab world for good reason. They are essentially regional mercenaries, tin-pot generals and the odd non-Arab soldier of fortune. Likewise, Saudi Arabia’s military has almost no real combat experiences while many of Iran’s military top brass were battle hardened in the Iran-Iraq war. Younger Iranian soldiers have gained valuable experience fighting terrorism in Syria.
Were America to get involved in a war between Saudi Arabia and, Iran it would likely spiral into a world-war, and America doesn’t seem to have the stomach for this. America’s backing off of threats against North Korea is one such example of America’s bark being increasingly bigger than its bite.
Russia on the other hand would not likely abandon Iran which is becoming an increasingly closer partner to Russia. Russia would continue to arm and offer support to Iran during any war against Saudi Arabia.
Some suggest that in a Saudi war with Iran, Erdogan’s Turkey would join up with the extremist Sunnis in Saudi. Again this is unlikely. Erdogan has a great deal on his plate and he isn’t handling it very well. Using Turkish forces to bolster jihdaists in parts of Syria is a much smaller effort than what would be required to fight a war with Iran.
Because Turkey has a conscripted army, such a war would be extremely unpopular. Erdgoan would likely be overthrown if he attempted to force Turkish conscripts to fight Iran for the sake of a distant Arab kingdom.
If the Saudis are stupid enough to provoke Iran, The Islamic Republic would likely obliterate the Wahhabi Kingdom and many Arabs would quietly cheer, some would openly celebrate. If such an event resulted in the overthrow of the Turkish regime, many Turks would also be quite happy.
It is wise to remember too that Saudi Arabia is not a state known to history. There is no ancient or even modern basis for a Saudi state.
The house of al-Saud was a small desert tribe who only attained statehood because in the 1920s Britain switched allegiances from its former Hashemite allies in the Kingdom of Hejaz to the house of Saud who with British assistance took over much of the Arabian peninsula and formed Saudi Arabia in 1932.
Iran by contrast is one of the most ancient countries and civilisations in the world. The Saudis do not know what they are up against neither historically, culturally nor militarily.
4. Silent Internal Sectarian Problems
Although hardly reported in the west, Saudi Arabia is home to around 3 million Shia’s Muslims. They face high levels of discrimination in housing, education and employment in addition to severe religious persecution.
The treatment of Saudi’s Shi’a minority is simply appalling. It is a human rights disaster that the world shuts up about because the Saudi money is doing much of the proverbial talking.
Last year, Saudi Arabia executed a revered Shi’a cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr. The move caused great discord throughout the Islamic world.
Instances such as this are not as isolated as many pretend to believe. If Saudi Arabia continues to lose money and power, an internal revolution in one of the most repressive and intolerant states in the world is a real possibility.
It is wise to remember that the so called Ottoman period of decline lasted for centuries. Powerful states rarely fall overnight, but even so, the Ottoman Empire was a far different kind of state than Saudi Arabia and frankly the events of the 21st century move even quicker than those in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
A young child born today may live to see the day when Saudi Arabia is on the map only in antique markets.