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Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Invincible Saudi Prince: Kidnapped, Beat, Raped 3 Women in Beverly Hills Compound, US Lets Him Go. Won't even release his picture.

On the 23rd of September, a servant employed at a Beverly Hills mansion compound saw a woman screaming for help while desperately trying to climb the tall wall surrounding the $37 million estate.

She was bleeding and had just been raped by 28 year old Saudi prince; Majed Abdulaziz al-Saud, the Times reported. She was only the latest of his several victims, who have now come forward. The servant who came to the brutalized woman’s rescue lived and worked within the compound. The police were called and the prince, who had been renting the mansion, was arrested.

The accused prince, a lower-ranking member of the House of Saud, does not have diplomatic immunity and can thus be legally tried for his crimes. He was set to appear in court on October 19th. Yet, despite his status as a non-national and being the very definition of a high flight risk, he was quickly released by the Beverly Hills, California police on a $300,000 bail; a paltry sum for a prince.

He has apparently now fled and hasn’t been seen or heard from since. No photographs of him have been released, and none exist in the public space. In similar fugitive cases, the police have released mugshots to help identify the suspects. Neighbor, Eric Stiskin offered his take on the prince’s whereabouts, “I am sure he has taken off on his private jet by now. I don’t think he even needs a passport to get out of here.”

Mansion Compound

The Beverly Hills, CA mansion compound rented by the royal kidnapper, as seen on Google Maps.

Last Friday, Three of the victims filed a civil lawsuit against Al-Saud. In it, they accuse him of “inflicting emotional distress, assault and battery, sexual discrimination, and retaliation against his domestic employees.” It is commonplace for affluent Beverly Hills residents to employ illegal immigrants as servants, so that they have no rights and protections and will be unlikely to report abuse for fear of deportation by the state.

Policing of the wealthy in the United States is a very different animal than the brutal tactics employed in low income communities. While a crime suspect from a low-income background will almost always be sucked up by the country’s infamous prison industrial complex; commoditized by the gigantic private prisons that turn every prisoner into a profit source, the authorities are incredibly lenient on wealthy lawbreakers. It is exceedingly unusual in the US, for a kidnapper and rapist of several women to be released on bail. The only logical explanation for the leniency is the suspect’s status as a member of the royal family of Saudi Arabia; one of the US’s key allies.

The ultra-wealthy royal House of Saud is composed of 15,000 members, with about 2,000 of the family enjoying the highest wealth and power. A royal whistleblower revealed more details about her clandestine family:

“We have 15,000 royals and around 13,000 don’t enjoy the wealth of the 2,000. You have 2,000 who are multi-millionaires, who have all the power, all the wealth and no-one can even utter a word against it because they are afraid to lose what they have.”

The Saudi government is about to behead and crucify a young critic of the regime. The record of human rights abuses under the Saudi monarchy is absolutely staggering, so it should be of no surprise to any keen observer that a member of the Saudi ruling class would kidnap, beat and rape women while holidaying overseas, or that he would deny his servants basic worker rights.

In the latest horrific massacre by the Saudi regime, at least 28 people at a party celebrating a wedding in the village of al-Wahga, Yemen were killed by 2 successive airstrikes, with scores more maimed for life. The Saudi’s said the attack was a ‘mistake’.

The US is also famous for its long list of human rights abuses and the invasion and occupation of less affluent nations, so the steadfast alliance between the two ultra-wealthy nations is, if nothing else, a logical pairing.

The ongoing social apartheid that protects the rich and criminalizes the poor has long been the status quo in every capitalist nation. Both the US and Saudi Arabia have a long history of executing dissidents accused of fabricated crimes. The US arguably has a worse record, since many of their executions of the poor are carried out by police officers, without as much as a mock trial.

A US judge recently threw out a lawsuit filed against Saudi Arabia by the families of the almost 3,000 9/11 victims. The perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks were mainly Saudi citizens. District Judge George Daniels of Manhattan, New York, stated that Saudi Arabia cannot be sued due to the sovereign immunity granted to it by the US government.

Saudi Arabia has just been made chair of the UN Human Rights Council. The US President, Barack Obama is the recipient of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.

Propaganda War Begins: Russia's Syria Strikes Targeted US-Backed "Moderate" Rebels, West Says

With the US having officially lost control of the narrative in Syria now that The Kremlin has called Washington’s bluff on the battle to eradicate ISIS and eliminate the Sunni extremist elements that threaten to wrest control of Syria from President Bashar al-Assad, the only remaining question after Russian lawmakers officially cleared the way for airstrikes was how long it would be before the Western media began shouting about Russian warplanes bombing targets that aren’t affiliated with ISIS.

As we reported earlier today, Moscow wasted no time in launching its first round of air raids.

In turn, the West wasted no time in contending that Russia is targeting areas that aren’t known to be strategically significant for ISIS. Here’s a look at two headlines which do a nice job of summarizing all of the rhetoric which you’re about to hear emanating ceaselessly from every corner of the Western world in the coming days and weeks:


And here’s WSJ with a sneak peek at the new narrative which Washington will be working hard to refine:

Russian President Vladimir Putin inserted his country directly into Syria’s war Wednesday, as Russian forces launched their first airstrikes against what Moscow said were Islamic State targets in the Middle Eastern nation.

But Western leaders raised doubts about whether Russia really intended to take the fight to Islamic State, or merely broaden the Syrian regime’s offensive against a wide range of other opponents.

For the U.S., the Russian strikes add new questions about the role of Russian forces in Syria. “While we would welcome a constructive role by Russia in this effort, today’s [meeting in Baghdad] hardly seems indicative of that sort of role and will in no way alter our operations,” a U.S. official said.

Warplanes targeted Islamic State military hardware and weapons stores, a spokesman for Russia’s Ministry of Defense told official news agencies hours after Russian lawmakers approved a request by Mr. Putin to allow the use of force abroad.

Framing the attacks as part of a fight against terrorism, Mr. Putin said that Russia will support the Syrian army from the air, without any ground operations, for the duration of the Syrian offensive.

“The only real way to fight international terrorism…is to act pre-emptively. and not wait till they [terrorists] come to our home,” Mr. Putin said in televised comments. He called for antiterror cooperation with other states through the Russian coordination center in Baghdad.

The official Syrian Arab News Agency reported Wednesday that Russian airstrikes hit areas under Islamic State control in Homs and Hama provinces, including the cities of Al Rastan and Talbiseh, near the town of Salamiyah, and the villages of al-Za’faran, al-Humr Hills, Eidoun, Salamiyah and Deir Fol. The strikes had successfully targeted Islamic State, SANA said, without elaborating.

But with the exception of the area east of the town of Salamiyah in Hama province, none of the areas listed by the Syrian regime have a known presence of Islamic State fighters. They are largely dominated by relatively moderate rebel factions and Islamist groups like Ahrar al-Sham and the al Qaeda affiliate the Nusra Front.

Yes, “relatively moderate rebel factions like al-Qaeda" (check the above, WSJ actually said that) which in July kidnapped the commander and deputy commander of the Pentagon’s ragtag group of US-trained rebels that was supposed to number in the thousands by now but has been reduced to just “four or five” men and which was humiliated last Friday when the remaining fighters were forced to surrender their pickup trucks and ammo to al-Nusra in order to “secure safe passage” to who knows where.

Considering that, and considering the "solid" relationship the US has always maintained with al-Qaeda, it sure would be a shame if a few al-Nusra operatives wound up as collateral damage in Russia’s air campaign. 

Then there's The Telegraph with an epic attempt to spin the news with a single headline: "Putin defies West as Russia bomb 'Syrian rebel targets instead of Isil'".

Meanwhile, France - who recently went full-propaganda by using “self defense” to justify its newly launched Syrian bombing campaign - is out expressing its consternation about which groups Russia is bombing. Via Reuters:

France said it was "curious" that Russian air strikes in Syria on Wednesday had not targeted Islamic State militants and a diplomatic source added that Moscow's action appeared aimed at supporting President Bashar al-Assad against other opposition groups in the country's civil war.

The diplomatic source said it was in line with Russia's stance since 2012 that until there was a viable alternative to Assad, Moscow would not drop its support for him in the war that began in 2011 after a government crackdown on anti-Assad protests.

"Russian forces struck Syria and curiously didn't hit Islamic State," Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told lawmakers.

A French diplomatic source said the strikes, which seemed to have been carried out near Homs, an area crucial to Assad's control of western Syria. 

"It is not Daesh (Islamic State) that they are targeting, but probably opposition groups, which confirms that they are more in support of Bashar's regime than in fighting Daesh," the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"We shall see what they do with their other strikes," the source said.

And then Germany (which, much to Moscow's chagrin, recently announced it’s set to receive a shipment of new US nukes) jumped on the bandwagon. Via Bloomberg:

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier says Russia needs to explain its aims in carrying out airstrikes in Syria. 

“In this highly charged situation in Syria there’s a big risk that there will be further misunderstandings between the partners, all of whom are needed to calm the situation”

“I hope that this isn’t slamming shut all the doors that were laboriously opened in recent days, including in talks between President Obama and President Putin”

“Only coordinated action can lead to a solution. Military action along won’t help us overcome the Syrian crisis. We have to get into a political process. We need the neighbors, Russia, the U.S., and we in Europe can be helpful, too."

There are two things to note here. First, there isn't anything "curious" about this and Vladimir Putin has made no secret of his intent to keep the Assad regime from falling. Indeed, it's not clear what else Putin could do besides invite Charlie Rose for a two hour interview and explain three separate times that Moscow intends to support Assad. Second, Germany's suggestion that Russia is "slamming shut all the doors to cooperation" is ridiculous to the point of absurdity. As the events that have unfolded over the past several weeks have made abundantly clear, it is the West that has slammed the door shut on Russia when it comes to cooperating to fight ISIS and the reason for Washington's trepidation stems directly from i) wanting to oust Assad at all costs even if it means allowing the extremists operating in Syria to remain active until the regime falls, and ii) the fact that no matter what line The White House trots out to the public, the US views the Russia-Iran "nexus" as far more dangerous to America's geopolitical ambitions than ISIS and therefore, allying with Washington's two fiercest foreign policy critics simply isn't an option even if such an alliance would swiftly eradicate Islamic State. 

And of course the narrative wouldn't be complete without some on-the-ground Skype "intelligence". Here's Reuters:

Russian air strikes in northwest Syria which Moscow said targeted Islamic State fighters hit a rebel group supported by Western opponents of President Bashar al-Assad on Wednesday, wounding eight, the group's commander said.

He said the fighters were hit in the countryside of Hama province, where the group has a headquarters.

"The northern countryside of Hama has no presence of ISIS at all and is under the control of the Free Syrian Army," Major Jamil al-Saleh, who defected from the Syrian army in 2012, told Reuters via Skype.

Saleh said his group had been supplied with advanced anti-tank missiles by foreign powers opposed to Assad.

The Homs area is crucial to President Bashar al-Assad's control of western Syria. Insurgent control of that area would bisect the Assad-held west, separating Damascus from the coastal cities of Latakia and Tartous, where Russia operates a naval facility.

"In the early morning this aircraft conducted air strikes in Latamneh city. One targeted a civilian area, and the other targeted al-Izza," Saleh said, referring to his group which he said were set up around two years ago and has 1,500 fighters.

He declined to give further details on the exact location of the strike but said the bombs hit a cave which the group used as a headquarters and was near the front line with the regime in northern Hama countryside.

"Each strike had 8-10 missiles and there were two strikes so there is no way it was an accident," he added.

No, it probably was not an accident, but what the Western powers want you to believe is that because they steadfastly refuse to acknowledge what's going on even when it is patiently explained to them by The Kremlin, then anything that happens is thereby a mystery. 

The bottom line going forward is that the US and its regional and European allies are going to have to decide whether they want to be on the right side of history here or not, and as we've been careful to explain, no one is arguing that Bashar al-Assad is the most benevolent leader in the history of statecraft but it has now gotten to the point where Western media outlets are describing al-Qaeda as "moderate" in a last ditch effort to explain away Washington's unwillingness to join Russia in stabilizing Syria. This is a foreign policy mistake of epic proportions on the part of the US and the sooner the West concedes that and moves to correct it by admitting that none of the groups the CIA, the Pentagon, and Washington's Mid-East allies have trained and supported represent a viable alternative to the Assad regime, the sooner Syria will cease to be the chessboard du jour for a global proxy war that's left hundreds of thousands of innocent people dead. 

U.S. Bombs Somehow Keep Falling in the Places Where Obama “Ended Two Wars”

“We’ve ended two wars.” — Barack Obama, July 21, 2015, at a DSCC fundraiser held at a “private residence”

“Now that we have ended two wars responsibly, and brought home hundreds of American troops, we salute this new generation of veterans.” — National Security Adviser Susan Rice, May 20, 2015

“His presidency makes a potentially great story: the first African-American in the White House, who helped the country recover from recession and ended two wars.” — Dominic Tierney, The Atlantic, January 15, 2015, “America Will Miss Obama When He’s Gone”

Report from Airwars, August 2, 2015, detailing civilian deaths from continuous U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria:

New York Times, today, headlined: “U.S. Planes Strike Near Kunduz Airport as Fight Rages On”

American warplanes bombarded Taliban-held territory around the Kunduz airport overnight, and Afghan officials said American Special Forces were rushed toward the fighting. … The situation for the Afghan forces improved somewhat toward midnight: American warplanes conducted airstrikes at 11:30 p.m. and again at 1 a.m. on Taliban positions near the airport, an American military spokesman said. … Around the same time, soldiers with the American Special Forces headed out toward the city with Afghan commandos, according to Afghan government officials.

How do you know when you’re an out-of-control empire? When you keep bombing and deploying soldiers in places where you boast that you’ve ended wars. How do you know you have a hackish propagandist for a president? When you celebrate him for “ending two wars” in the very same places that he keeps bombing.

All of this, just by the way, is being done without any Congressional approval, at least with regard to Iraq and Syria. As my colleague Cora Currier noted when reporting on the Airwars report in August, these civilian deaths are “a reminder of the extent to which the United States’ air war in Syria and Iraq has rolled ahead with little public debate over its effectiveness. Congress has still not passed a specific legal authorization for the war.”

Russia today announced that its upper Parliament approved its own imperialistic intervention and bombing campaign inside Syria, and that legislative body was widely (and not inaccurately) derided by U.S. commentators for being what the New York Times called a “rubber stamp.” The Obama administration, by contrast, does not even bother with the empty ritual of Congressional approval for its bombing campaigns; the president proved he is even willing to bomb a country after Congress rejected his authorization to do so, as happened in Libya. Indeed, the one and only time Obama venerated the need for Congressional approval for bombing was when he was pressured to bomb the Assad regime for crossing his “red line” but did not actually want to do so; as Charles Davis put it today, “Obama only seeks Congress’ authorization when he doesn’t actually want to do something, as when Assad crossed his ‘red line.'”

Whatever else one wants to say about Iraq and Afghanistan, one cannot honestly say that Obama ended the wars in those countries. The U.S. continues to drop bombs on both, deploys soldiers in both, kills civilians in both, and engages in a wide range of overt and covert force, all without a shred of Congressional approval.

Photo: U.S. soldiers inspect the site of a suicide attack in the heart of Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, Aug. 22, 2015. The suicide car bomber attacked a NATO convoy traveling through a crowded neighborhood in Afghanistan’s capital Saturday, killing at least 10 people, including three NATO contractors, authorities said. 

The Start Of China’s Unrest? Southern China City Rocked By “Massive” Bomb Explosions, At Least 6 Dead

Update: it did not take long to find the possible bombing suspect:

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Over the weekend when we reported that one of China’s largest coal miners had laid off 100,000, or 40% of its workforce, we noted that China’s hard-landing is starting to hit where it really hurts: employment, or rather the lack thereof, and the one logical consequence: “now, many migrant workers struggle to find their footing in a downshifting economy. As factories run out of money and construction projects turn idle across China, there has been a rise in the last thing Beijing wants to see: unrest.

Moments ago we may have witnessed the first direct, and deadly, manifestation of this unrest when as Xinhua reported, a series of at least 17 “massive” explosions rocked the southern Chinese city of Liuzhou earlier today, killing at least three six people and injuring more than a dozen, state media reported.







According to NBC, a local police chief told state news agency Xinhua that the 17 explosions hit locations including a hospital, a food market and a bus station, state news agency Xinhua reported.

State-run broadcaster CCTV cited a police chief saying the blasts were caused by “parcels containing explosives,” without providing further information.

In other words, for the first time in recent years, someone in China proactively sent out mailbombs to heavily populated areas including a hospital, a market, and a bus station.

CCTV said at least 6 people had been killed and at least 13 injured. NBC News could not immediately confirm that tally.

Images posted to Twitter by the Chinese media outlets appeared to show partially collapsed buildings, rubble in the streets, and at least one plume of smoke above the city.

According to Xinhua, the incident is being investigated as a criminal act. Which brings us back to our conclusion from Sunday:

if there is one thing China’s politburo simply can not afford right now, is to layer public unrest and civil violence on top of an economy which is already in “hard-landing” move. Forget black – this would be the bloody swan that nobody could “possibly have seen coming.

Three days later we may have the first manifestation of precisely this civil violence “bloody swan.” Will today’s deadly bombing be the end of it, or is it just starting?

Saudi Prince Calls For Royal Coup

In the wake of the petrodollar’s dramatic collapse late last year, we’ve been keen to document the projected effect on global liquidity of net petrodollar exports turning negative for the first time in decades. We also moved to explain how this dynamic relates to the FX reserve liquidation we’re now seeing across EM. 

Of course we’ve also endeavored to explain that while grasping the big picture is certainly critical (and even more so now that China’s efforts to support the yuan in the wake of the August 11 deval have thrust FX reserve liquidation into the spotlight), understanding what “lower for longer” means specifically for Riyadh is important as well.

To recap, the necessity of preserving the status quo for everyday Saudis combined with funding two regional proxy wars while simultaneously defending the riyal peg isn’t exactly compatible with intentionally suppressing crude prices in an effort to outlast ZIRP and bankrupt the US shale complex. The difficulty of balancing all of this has created a current account/fiscal account outcome that makes Brazil look quite favorable by comparison and it has also forced the Saudis into the debt markets, suggesting that the kingdom’s debt-to-GDP ratio is set to rise sharply by the end of 2016 (although it would of course still look favorable by comparison in even the worst case scenarios). 

Thrown in a catastrophic crane collapse at Mecca and an incredibly horrific hajj stampede (followed by some epic trolling out of Tehran) and you have a recipe for social upheaval. 

It’s against this backdrop that we present the following from The Guardian followed by extensive commentary from Nafeez Ahmed.

From The Guardian

A senior Saudi prince has launched an unprecedented call for change in the country’s leadership, as it faces its biggest challenge in years in the form of war, plummeting oil prices and criticism of its management of Mecca, scene of last week’s hajj tragedy.


The prince, one of the grandsons of the state’s founder, Abdulaziz Ibn Saud, has told the Guardian that there is disquiet among the royal family – and among the wider public – at the leadership of King Salman, who acceded the throne in January.


The prince, who is not named for security reasons, wrote two letters earlier this month calling for the king to be removed.



“The king is not in a stable condition and in reality the son of the king [Mohammed bin Salman] is ruling the kingdom,” the prince said. “So four or possibly five of my uncles will meet soon to discuss the letters. They are making a plan with a lot of nephews and that will open the door. A lot of the second generation is very anxious.”


“The public are also pushing this very hard, all kinds of people, tribal leaders,” the prince added. “They say you have to do this or the country will go to disaster.”


A clutch of factors are buffeting King Salman, his crown prince, Mohammed bin Nayef, and the deputy crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.


A double tragedy in Mecca – the collapse of a crane that killed more than 100, followed by a stampede last week that killed 700 – has raised questions not just about social issues, but also about royal stewardship of the holiest site in Islam. 


As usual, the Saudi authorities have consistently shrugged off any suggestion that a senior member of the government may be responsible for anything that has gone wrong.


Local people, however, have made clear on social media and elsewhere that they no longer believe such claims.


“The people inside [the kingdom] know what’s going on but they can’t say. The problem is the corruption in using the resources of the country for building things in the right form,” said an activist who lives in Mecca but did not want to be named for fear of repercussions.


“Unfortunately the government points the finger against the lower levels, saying for example: ‘Where are the ambulances? Where are the healthcare workers?’ They try to escape the real reason of such disaster,” he added.

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Submitted by Nafeez Ahmed via Middle East Eye

On Tuesday 22 September, Middle East Eye broke the story of a senior member of the Saudi royal family calling for a “change” in leadership to fend off the kingdom’s collapse.

In a letter circulated among Saudi princes, its author, a grandson of the late King Abdulaziz Ibn Saud, blamed incumbent King Salman for creating unprecedented problems that endangered the monarchy’s continued survival.

“We will not be able to stop the draining of money, the political adolescence, and the military risks unless we change the methods of decision making, even if that implied changing the king himself,” warned the letter.

Whether or not an internal royal coup is round the corner – and informed observers think such a prospect “fanciful” – the letter’s analysis of Saudi Arabia’s dire predicament is startlingly accurate.

Like many countries in the region before it, Saudi Arabia is on the brink of a perfect storm of interconnected challenges that, if history is anything to judge by, will be the monarchy’s undoing well within the next decade.

Black gold hemorrhage

The biggest elephant in the room is oil. Saudi Arabia’s primary source of revenues, of course, is oil exports. For the last few years, the kingdom has pumped at record levels to sustain production, keeping oil prices low, undermining competing oil producers around the world who cannot afford to stay in business at such tiny profit margins, and paving the way for Saudi petro-dominance.

But Saudi Arabia’s spare capacity to pump like crazy can only last so long. A new peer-reviewed study in the Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering anticipates that Saudi Arabia will experience a peak in its oil production, followed by inexorable decline, in 2028 – that’s just 13 years away.

This could well underestimate the extent of the problem. According to the Export Land Model (ELM) created by Texas petroleum geologist Jeffrey J Brown and Dr Sam Foucher, the key issue is not oil production alone, but the capacity to translate production into exports against rising rates of domestic consumption.

Brown and Foucher showed that the inflection point to watch out for is when an oil producer can no longer increase the quantity of oil sales abroad because of the need to meet rising domestic energy demand.

In 2008, they found that Saudi net oil exports had already begun declining as of 2006. They forecast that this trend would continue.

They were right. From 2005 to 2015, Saudi net exports have experienced an annual decline rate of 1.4 percent, within the range predicted by Brown and Foucher. A report by Citigroup recently predicted that net exports would plummet to zero in the next 15 years.

From riches to rags

This means that Saudi state revenues, 80 percent of which come from oil sales, are heading downwards, terminally.

Saudi Arabia is the region’s biggest energy consumer, domestic demand having increased by 7.5 percent over the last five years – driven largely by population growth.

The total Saudi population is estimated to grow from 29 million people today to 37 million by 2030. As demographic expansion absorbs Saudi Arabia’s energy production, the next decade is therefore likely to see the country’s oil exporting capacity ever more constrained.

Renewable energy is one avenue which Saudi Arabia has tried to invest in to wean domestic demand off oil dependence, hoping to free up capacity for oil sales abroad, thus maintaining revenues.

But earlier this year, the strain on the kingdom’s finances began to show when it announced an eight-year delay to its $109 billion solar programme, which was supposed to produce a third of the nation’s electricity by 2032.

State revenues also have been hit through blowback from the kingdom’s own short-sighted strategy to undermine competing oil producers. As I previously reported, Saudi Arabia has maintained high production levels precisely to keep global oil prices low, making new ventures unprofitable for rivals such as the US shale gas industry and other OPEC producers.

The Saudi treasury has not escaped the fall-out from the resulting oil profit squeeze – but the idea was that the kingdom’s significant financial reserves would allow it to weather the storm until its rivals are forced out of the market, unable to cope with the chronic lack of profitability.

That hasn’t quite happened yet. In the meantime, Saudi Arabia’s considerable reserves are being depleted at unprecedented levels, dropping from their August 2014 peak of $737 billion to $672bn in May – falling by about $12bn a month.

At this rate, by late 2018, the kingdom’s reserves could deplete as low as $200bn, an eventuality that would likely be anticipated by markets much earlier, triggering capital flight.

To make up for this prospect, King Salman’s approach has been to accelerate borrowing. What happens when over the next few years reserves deplete, debt increases, while oil revenues remain strained?

As with autocratic regimes like Egypt, Syria and Yemen – all of which are facing various degrees of domestic unrest – one of the first expenditures to slash in hard times will be lavish domestic subsidies. In the former countries, successive subsidy reductions responding to the impacts of rocketing food and oil prices fed directly into the grievances that generated the “Arab Spring” uprisings.

Saudi Arabia’s oil wealth, and its unique ability to maintain generous subsidies for oil, housing, food and other consumer items, plays a major role in fending off that risk of civil unrest. Energy subsidies alone make up about a fifth of Saudi’s gross domestic product.

Pressure points

As revenues are increasingly strained, the kingdom’s capacity to keep a lid on rising domestic dissent will falter, as has already happened in countries across the region.

About a quarter of the Saudi population lives in poverty. Unemployment is at about 12 percent, and affects mostly young people – 30 percent of whom are unemployed.

Climate change is pitched to heighten the country’s economic problems, especially in relation to food and water.

Like many countries in the region, Saudi Arabia is already experiencing the effects of climate change in the form of stronger warming temperatures in the interior, and vast areas of rainfall deficits in the north. By 2040, average temperatures are expected to be higher than the global average, and could increase by as much as 4 degrees Celsius, while rain reductions could worsen.

This would be accompanied by more extreme weather events, like the 2010 Jeddah flooding caused by a year’s worth of rain occurring within the course of just four hours. The combination could dramatically impact agricultural productivity, which is already facing challenges from overgrazing and unsustainable industrial agricultural practices leading to accelerated desertification.

In any case, 80 percent of Saudi Arabia’s food requirements are purchased through heavily subsidised imports, meaning that without the protection of those subsidies, the country would be heavily impacted by fluctuations in global food prices.

“Saudi Arabia is particularly vulnerable to climate change as most of its ecosystems are sensitive, its renewable water resources are limited and its economy remains highly dependent on fossil fuel exports, while significant demographic pressures continue to affect the government’s ability to provide for the needs of its population,” concluded a UN Food & Agricultural Organisation (FAO) report in 2010.

The kingdom is one of the most water scarce in the world, at 98 cubic metres per inhabitant per year. Most water withdrawal is from groundwater, 57 percent of which is non-renewable, and 88 percent of which goes to agriculture. In addition, desalination plants meet about 70 percent of the kingdom’s domestic water supplies.

But desalination is very energy intensive, accounting for more than half of domestic oil consumption. As oil exports run down, along with state revenues, while domestic consumption increases, the kingdom’s ability to use desalination to meet its water needs will decrease.

End of the road

In Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Egypt, civil unrest and all-out war can be traced back to the devastating impact of declining state power in the context of climate-induced droughts, agricultural decline, and rapid oil depletion.

Yet the Saudi government has decided that rather than learning lessons from the hubris of its neighbours, it won’t wait for war to come home – but will readily export war in the region in a madcap bid to extend its geopolitical hegemony and prolong its petro-dominance.

Unfortunately, these actions are symptomatic of the fundamental delusion that has prevented all these regimes from responding rationally to the Crisis of Civilization that is unravelling the ground from beneath their feet. That delusion consists of an unwavering, fundamentalist faith: that more business-as-usual will solve the problems created by business-as-usual.

Like many of its neighbours, such deep-rooted structural realities mean that Saudi Arabia is indeed on the brink of protracted state failure, a process likely to take-off in the next few years, becoming truly obvious well within a decade.

Sadly, those few members of the royal family who think they can save their kingdom from its inevitable demise by a bit of experimental regime-rotation are no less deluded than those they seek to remove.

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We would only ask if all of the above means that future vists to the US will look dissimilar to this: