Those who depend on Saudi Arabia’s oil hold an enormous stake in what happens. The Saudis as a whole remain too passive to rise up in revolt. Even if they gathered the energy and commitment to forcibly overthrow the House of Saud, they possess no ideology or institution capable of creating an alternative system of governance. Nor is there any foundation on which to build for the common good, because there is no concept among the Saudis of benefits for anyone beyond the family. That means that either the House of Saud remains too ineffective to preside over the deteriorating social fabric, which encompasses the military, or the country implodes. The kingdom’s regions—the Hejaz, the Hasa, and the Nejd—spin off from each other followed by Asir, Jizan, and the northern frontier. The Shia of the Eastern Province, who essentially run ARAMCO, throw off the yoke of the Wahhabis. Family and tribe look after their own. And greedy outsiders with powerful militaries gather to compete for the oil resources of the collapsed kingdom. With turmoil and spiraling oil prices, everyone loses—the House of Saud, the Saudis, and the world economy.
Sandra Mackey is the author of The Saudis: Inside the Desert Kingdom (W. W. Norton, 2002) as well as other works on Middle East politics and culture. Her most recent book is Mirror of the Arab World: Lebanon in Conflict (W. W. Norton, 2008).
Image: Wikimedia Commons/Flcelloguy. CC BY-SA 3.0.