The constant with Saudi Arabia is that it is an economic giant, but because of its demographics, although their military forces are well-equipped and professional, they are too diminutive in manpower in comparison to the Kingdom’s worldwide economic importance to protect the country effectively from a full external assault by a large armed force. Therefore, it has to have friends. Further, there is an economic impetus in that Eastern Europe receives most of its energy needs from or through Russia. This makes the ”new” countries of Europe particularly vulnerable to Moscow’s blackmail: (Cutting off the spigot, so to say).
With shifts that Riyādh sees as clouding its historically central relationship with the United States, the Arabian Kingdom is looking for other friends, too, – markets and potential allies as a backup – in that fracking and tar sand technology is obscuring the States dependence upon the Saudi’s natural resources (oil), and, thereby, potentially reducing the Arab’s nation’s wealth. Thus, it makes sense to build bridges towards the evolving economies of the former Second World. The Eastern European nations with the Saudi Middle Eastern Kingdom stand to mutually benefit from each other’s diplomatic friendship since the Russian Federations have a stranglehold over the energy requirements of the new European independent economies. Friendship with Middle Eastern suppliers – especially the Saudis – open broader options with benefits for both prospective partners.
The unification came after a series of military and political campaigns against the tribes, the sheikhdoms, the emirates and kingdoms over the territory of Arabia which the Riyādh now controls. These diverse political entities eventually were subdued by the House of Saud. Curiously, the realm’s name, Saudi Arabia, finds its designation from the family which has controlled the terrain of Saudi Arabia since 1932, and is the only nation-state currently in existence that finds its name after its ruling palace’s occupants.
The male descendant, King Salman, who only recently took office at the death of his late half-brother King Abdullah, presently rules. A monarchy can be the best form of government if the King possesses great virtues of statesmen-ship and morality. So far Saudi Arabia has had a series of Kings who have been exceptional geo-politicians and have been able to adhere to the morality of their Wahhabi convictions. Yet, reform in the mold of its tradition is required for any political structure to survive and thrive over time. This will be the biggest challenge for the new King: To preserve the pith of tradition amidst a quickly changing modernity.
One of the issues with Arabia of the Saudis is the tremendous area it covers in comparison to its ability to defend itself. It is the thirteenth largest country on this globe in hectares: 2,149,690 square kilometers in comparison to its population (27,345,986 of which 30% are immigrants – mostly economic or religiously motivated). That is, the nation is the forty-seventh in the world in the order of population. This has become problematic with the demographic growth of its populace: 1.49% or 18.78 births per 1,000 dwellers with 3.32 deaths per 1,000 in 2014 although there has been a slight decrease in immigration. This shows a considerable growth in people with sparse habitable places. This is becoming an issue for the Royal Household to address.
With the wealth of the nation centralized in the hands of a slight portion of one family, social stress has been produced within the non-royals. (Often centralization of power and income can be a positive in that it makes economic growth more likely, but it can bring social unease at the same time.) These contradictions must be worked out by the current government, and they are well aware of the encounters that must settled.
The future of oil, guaranteeing Saudi wealth, is presently being challenged by America. OPEC (the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) is under fire from North America’s (new) expertise of extracting oil from the environmentally unfriendly tar sands and fracking to the point that the United States has once again become the supreme oil producer in the world, but still its production does not match its needs. These methodologies are only effective when the price of imported oil becomes so highly priced that it is economically feasible to employ these techniques.
The notorious sandstorms and the ecologically inhospitable terrain have discouraged non-mineral development. The environment is more than a challenge to shape for human habitation. The extraction of oil – the Arabian’s great wealth has – in and of itself – been the cause of environmental degradation within their delicate ecosystem.
Emerging out of the Wahhabi rite, derives the Salafi interpretation which encourages followers to live a life in the manner of the sixth-seventh century (C.E.) contemporaneous period to the Prophet (PBUH) in and around the first century of the Islamic Hajira, the event that marks the first year of the Muslim calendar (or 622 C.E.). This becomes problematical in that, as with any customary practice, there are the facts and the interpretation of them. So on the Arabian Peninsula, we find an official understanding by the Mufti of Mecca, the religious leader of Saudi Wahhabi Islam, who is historically synchronized to the Royal Household, and we, also, find divergent interpretations of the texts and practices. Most of those bring a radical understandings to the books and the practices into Wahhabi / Salafi lslam. Also, many of these engendered a miscomprehension of their faith in line with the hetero-orthodox radicalized supporters of al-Qaeda before and most recently DAASH. These deviant readings are not only threatening to the imperial and regional powers, but to the Saudi Arabian as a nation-State itself. It must be remembered before the advent of trans-national terrorism, there was violent pseudo-religious zealotry directed against the sovereign states within the MENA belt.
Even though there is some sympathy for DAASH within the Kingdom, the government and religious leaders have come out against that State (ISIS), and have joined the Coalition against it. The danger here is not so much to the interests of the dominion, but to the existence of the State itself. The grand prize for the ”Caliphate” would be the holy sites of Mecca and Medina. Therefore, the Saudis have concentrated on anti-terrorism measures within their realm although they have flown sorties in support of the Allies. After the death of a Saudi general and three border guards on the Iraqi frontier with DAASH, the Center has decided to shift its contribution to a defensive one. Riyādh has, further, resolved to construct a 900 kilometer fence along its most contentious and porous portion of its international borderline with Mesopotamia. The emphasis now is not to attack beyond its frontlines but to protect their homeland from terrorism because they perceive the gravest danger from it to themselves. With their materiel means at hand, it is the best way they can contribute to the War against DAASH.
The Saudis, as the de-facto leaders of the Sunni world, are most concerned about (Shia) Iran’s potential bomb. Thus, the Saudis have found themselves as an unvoiced ”ally” to the Middle East’s pariah, Israel, in their mutual opposition to the possibility of the Persian’s weaponization. This is an ad hoc relationship, and will probably not have a lasting life although Saudi Arabia had offered a serious peace plan for the settlement of the Arab-Israeli imbroglio.
Saudi Arabia voraciously opposed the movement, and through wealth of Arabia, probably had a covert influence upon their almost universal (except for Tunisia’s) failure.
After the coup in Egypt, the Sisi government has become one of Arabia’s closest allies within the MENA zone. Cairo has the largest Arab armed services (the fourth largest in the region, though); therefore, the Saudi’ success in their policy towards the Arab ”Spring” (Revolts) has had an immediate tactical value as well.
At the same time the Saudis have to manipulate the imperial powers as well as their regional threats. With their great wealth from their strategic resources, the nation has become an object of envy. The nation is surrounded by actors who are desirous of that wealth. Therefore, the Saudi royal house has remained true to their superb geopolitical abilities. The very real test is to maintain themselves through it.
Of course, for those in Europe, America and Australia are uneasy over the disruptions within the districts within the MENA zone. This has degenerated into a region-wide war. It must become contained and decimated in the sphere of its birth, or it will spread. Already there are disquieting warnings that it is expanding worldwide. Therefore, the Kingdom has been one source of stability within an unstable expanse, and that is why it remains an ally to its friends even though at times it is an enigma to them, also.