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How Saudi Arabia Avoids Protests

Posted by Steve Markowitz on June 9, 2011

Arab countries throughout the Middle East are in turmoil.  Dictators in Tunisia and Egypt have fallen.  Civil war exists in Libya and Yemen, and in Syria nearly 1,300 protestors have been killed by the Butcher of Bagdad.  Significant protests have also occurred in other countries including Bahrain and Jordan.

Significant by its absence from the turmoil is Saudi Arabia, the richest Arab country and the most important one relating to the world’s energy resources.  According to the New York Times, this calm has been bought with King Abdullah pumping $130 billion into the economy this year to increase salaries and other benefits.  With the price of oil at about $100, the King has a huge bag of cash available.

The other reason for the calm in Saudi Arabia is the close relationship between the royal family and religious clerics.  The chief cleric in the Kingdom even made a fatwa forbidding street protests.

The calm in Saudi Arabia is a good thing in the short run.  The last thing the world needs is for this country to implode.  However, that calm will be difficult to sustain in the Internet age for a country where women still cannot vote or drive cars.  In addition, when the oil money is depleted and royal family’s bribes stop flowing, Saudi citizens will become unhappy quickly.

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