MbS and the Long Reach of Saudi Leadership

by Peter Zeihan on October 24, 2022

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia exists as an odd mish-mash of geography and geology. It’s large, desert frontiers are remarkably ill-suited to economic activity. Before the discovery of oil, the main financial rainmaker was the annual Hajj. What we now know as Saudi Arabia’s primary significance to the region was its role as the birthplace of Islam and the bedrock of Bedouin culture.

Fast forward a few centuries and enter the British, who not only empower the region’s local tribes to oust the Ottoman-backed tribal leadership of Mecca but also discover vast oil deposits. Saudi Arabia today is a wealthy, centrally-located key petroleum supplier to pretty much every industrialized economy who wants to be a buyer. And it has not been shy about using its vast cash and oil reserves to shape events on the ground as it sees fit–from wreaking havoc in oil markets to funding transnational jihadism.

At the center of the Saudi Arabian system is the vast, multigeneration House of Saud. Much elevated in stature from their days as desert brigands and bloody rivals of the Hashemite dynasty, they haven’t forgotten their roots. The size of the ruling family, its material resources, and ability to transition to a younger generation gives the Saudis an advantage rarely seen in most dictatorships: longevity.

Categories: Geopolitics

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