King Salman and the House of Saud have had to deal with “an unprecedented avalanche” of issues, including ailing economy, low oil prices as well as the blowback from the military adventure in Yemen and support for Syrian radicals. This could prove to be too much of a burden for the oil kingdom, US journalist Daniel Lazare wrote for Consortiumnews.
The economy tops the list of troubles plaguing Saudi Arabia. “With its stubbornly high unemployment rate and growing wealth gap between the rich and poor, Saudi Arabia has long been the sick man of the Persian Gulf,” Lazare explained.
In addition, Riyadh is too dependent on oil exports. Despite stated intent to diversify the economy, “the kingdom was actually more dependent on oil as of 2013 than 40 years earlier,” the journalist noted. It follows then that the big drop in oil prices hit the kingdom where it hurts the most.Other issues Saudi Arabia has to deal with are largely of its own making. Take Riyadh’s foreign policy, particularly the operation in Yemen and the assistance to Syrian rebels.
“The Saudis thought they had Assad on the run after channeling US-made TOW missiles to the rebels last spring, but Russian intervention is altering the equation. Thanks to Russian bombardment of [Daesh], al-Qaeda and other rebel groups, Assad was able to announce in late November that his troops were advancing on ‘nearly every front,'” Lazare explained.
Russia has been assisting Damascus-led forces in their fight against terrorist groups, who are trying to topple Syria’s leadership, since September 30. The campaign, launched following a formal request from Bashar al-Assad, has been hailed as a success.
Nevertheless, King Salman, according to the journalist, recently “promised to intensify efforts to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad by increasing aid to al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s official Syrian affiliate.”
The Saudi operation in Yemen has turned out be as inefficient as the meddling in Syria.
“Although the ostensible goal was to prevent the Houthis from taking power, the Saudis’ real aim [in Yemen] was to humiliate Iran, which they see as the mastermind behind the uprising, and show the US that the kingdom was capable of stepping out on its own. … But the longer the Houthis hold out, the clearer it becomes that the Saudis are unable to prevail in their own backyard,” Lazare observed.
Lazare attributed the fault for some of these troubles to King Salman’s son Mohammad bin Salman.The US journalist described the deputy crown prince, who serves as the kingdom’s defense chief, as “a product of a closed and narrow educational system that emphasizes the Qur’an and Hadiths over science and analysis and imbues students with hostility toward Christians, Jews, Shi’ites and foreigners in general.”