2013 year for Saudi Arabia looked very ambiguous. The endless war in Syria cannot be called a disappointment for the Kingdom - just for the Arabs, this way of waging war to exhausting the enemy is more characteristic than the European blitzkrieg. For an Arab, even a lost war is no cause for concern, the magic formula “Inshall!” Answers all questions with success. In the end, Saudi Arabia itself emerged from the third attempt, there is nowhere to hurry.
By and large, the Kingdom has only two key problems - modernization and security. It copes with the rest quite successfully, and where it cannot cope on its own, its endless money works there.
The modernization is hindered by the ideology that enabled the assembly of the largest Arabian state, and therefore is the basic basis of its existence. Wahhabism, being an extremely orthodox and fundamental doctrine, extremely negative attitude to all innovations in any area of life. The ideologized theocracy, which is still Saudi Arabia, is ruled by both secular and religious authorities. Although the king is both the secular and spiritual leader of the Kingdom, the power of Mohammed Abd Al Wahhab’s descendants of the Ash Sheikh family is extremely great.
Even the founder of the current version of Saudi Arabia, the first king Abdul Aziz al Saud came into conflict with devoutly religious believers Ikhwan fanatics, who were his striking force. Not without difficulty defeating them, the pragmatic Abdelaziz began to shift the balance between religious and secular power in favor of the latter. This process continues continuously throughout the life of the state of the Al Saud dynasty, but to this day, ideological restrictions significantly inhibit the modernization of the country.
Practically all spheres of life are permeated with the attention and care of Wafhabi muftis, from preventing drivers from issuing driver's licenses to a very serious industry, like education. Not wanting to go into conflict, the secular authorities organized training for their young people abroad. Life makes you, and you need specialists not only in accurate quotation of the Holy Scriptures. However, a problem arises here: after studying in Europe-America, Saudi young people acquire knowledge that is unacceptable for orthodox orthodox habits besides baggage of knowledge. Carry them into the country and attach to them others. Do you want, do not want, but reluctantly, you have to open their own universities. The struggle for the minds is ongoing, and just recently King Abdullah appointed a new Minister of Education, who was tasked with qualitatively changing the approaches to the entire training system and finding an acceptable balance between knowledge and piety necessary for the country.
The problems of education are not limited to modernization issues, but they are a good marker by which one can judge about the success of modernization processes in Saudi Arabia. The country is already in the most difficult climatic conditions that create difficulties for the construction of a modern economy, and the country's leadership should lay the foundation for a normal life in the post-oil era. Therefore, the creation of a modern successful non-oil industry for the dynasty is a matter of its survival in the future.
In 2013, the insignificant for us was solved, but the very important task of postponing the weekend from Thursday-Friday to Friday-Saturday. It would seem a trifle, but thus Saudi Arabia synchronized its work week with economic partners and got rid of the huge losses associated with the mismatch of working time. The fight against religious leaders was carried on for almost a decade for such a trifle, and it cost incredible monetary losses for the country. And such small and insignificant at first glance problems in front of the Kingdom are a dime a dozen.
However, this is all a prospect. The current economic situation in Saudi Arabia is almost entirely dependent on oil. The Kingdom benefited from the sanctions imposed by the United States and Europe on Iran, almost completely replacing its quota with its oil. For Saudi scales, of course, it was a trifle, but pleasant. Pleasant doubly, as it created problems for the main enemy in the region.
Now the Geneva agreements have printed out Iranian plans, and at the last meeting of OPEC, if the Iranian oil minister didn’t explode the situation, it made her seriously strain with the statement that his country would bring oil production to 4 million barrels per day, even if it would lead to a fall prices up to 20 dollars. Everyone understands that this is largely a bluff, but there is a nuance. The Iranian oil trading strategy has traditionally led to the maximization of trading volumes, while the Saudi one has to maximize the margin. The balance between these strategies and is at the meetings of OPEC.
Iran and Iraq have already voiced their plans to bring the total oil production capacity to mind-blowing 12 million barrels per day by 2020. Most of these barrels are announced by Iraq, and its plans do not look too realistic, but by the 2020 year, Iranian and Iraqi forces bring production to the number of 7-8 million barrels per day, and Iran can solve its part of the task in the next five years. In the framework of the Iranian strategy, such a situation will look quite acceptable, and in the framework of the Saudi one, a catastrophe. In fact, there will be a redistribution of all agreements on quotas within OPEC, and for this, Saudi Arabia must have powerful positions to resist the joint onslaught of Shiite opponents.
And with the positions in 2013, Saudi Arabia has become worse. Much worse.
Being the main ally of the United States in the Arab world, Saudi Arabia has built its security policy based on the “umbrella” that the United States protected from any surprises. The position of the United States is understandable - being the largest importer of oil, we have to protect our interests along the entire route of its delivery.
The interests of the United States dictated back in 2005 year to the then President Bush to set the goal of reducing the country's dependence on oil imports. The task is being fulfilled - if in 2005, the import of energy resources provided 60% consumption, then in 2010 - 45%, and in 2013 - already around 40%.
In 2011, the United States became a net exporter of petroleum products. In 2014, according to forecasts, the United States will bypass Russia in oil exports and give China the first place in imports.
In such circumstances, the continuation of the US strategy to cover Saudi Arabia from "surprises" becomes ineffective, costly and redundant. The normalization of relations with Iran for the United States can bring an additional reduction in the cost of controlling the region, which the zealous Americans who can count their money have done.
Naturally, a breakthrough in relations with Iran for the United States this year was due not only to this mercantile factor alone. Such a difficult political and economic issue was tied to the need to redirect US attention to the Asia-Pacific region, Obama’s unfortunate policy of moderate political Islam, and the need to reduce dependence on the pro-Israel and pro-Saud lobbies in the corridors of power in Washington.
Russia also occupies an important place in the strategy of the United States - by allowing Russia to the Middle East region, which is freeing them, the United States gets a whole range of opportunities. First, cooperation between the United States and Russia in the region implies mutual concessions. The States made their concession - they allowed Russia to enter the region without their opposition. Now Russian diplomacy must think about the answer.
Secondly, by introducing Russia into the Middle East, the United States diverts its resources, forces and capabilities to this highly deregulated region of the world, in which the echoes of 2011-2013's catastrophic processes will continue for a long time. In addition, a new balance is being created, in which four major players will try to find their place at once - Russia, Israel, Iran and Saudi Arabia. The second echelon are Qatar and Turkey. Together, this creates an excellent opportunity for the United States to steer processes from afar, playing on the inevitable contradictions.
The situation in Saudi Arabia is complicated by the unresolved issue of succession to the throne. Even under King Fatah, the covenant of the founder of the Kingdom was slightly modified, according to which the most pious sons of Abdel Aziz could occupy the throne. Now the number of applicants includes the children of his children, but the problem is still far from being resolved. Powerful clans within the dynasty wage their struggle, and so far there are no signs that anyone has an overwhelming advantage.
The first generation of rulers of Saudi Arabia corny ends. Among the contenders for the throne of the living sons of Abdul Aziz there are practically only two left - the current crown prince Salman and the second vice-premier (formally the third person in the state) Mukrin. However, Salman is not very capable, and Mukrin is the son of a foreigner. In Saudi Arabia, a moment comes that the USSR passed after the death of Andropov - until the clans agreed, the first role was planted almost unaware of the diseases and age of K.U. Chernenko. Anyway, the good for us did not end anyway, and no one knows how the Saudis can solve this problem.
It can be said that today there are two large groups in the Saudi elite, and they have different views on the further development of the country, including its foreign policy positioning. Other clans and groups in various degrees to these two.
The group, whose frontman is the head of the Saudi special services and the personal friend of the Bush family, Prince Bandar, proceeds from a very rigid set of confrontations with Iran. At the same time, "Bandar and his team" are aware of the vulnerability of the Kingdom in its outskirts. The assembly of Saudi Arabia took place purely geographically in the form of the unification of four heterogeneous areas of the peninsula - Nejd in the center of Arabia, Hejaz on the Red Sea coast with its sacred cities Mecca and Medina, Asher on the border with Yemen and Al-Hassi - today's Eastern Province, the main oil “hut” Kingdom. In addition, there are northern areas of Saudi Arabia with their specific history in the life of the dynasty. Between all these historical areas of the country have their own fault lines, held together only by a rigid structure of power. The instability of power will immediately turn on the processes of the country's disintegration along these lines.
Therefore, the grouping of Prince Bandar, Interior Minister Mohammed bin Naif, Foreign Minister Saud Al Faisal, and other influential princes sees a way to move the confrontation with Iran outside of Saudi Arabia. This group is the sponsor of the war in Syria, actively advocating the creation of a Sunni state through the dismemberment of Syria and Iraq - with the aim of leading the struggle for leadership in the region on its territory. The consequences of this policy are already visible now - the radicalization of Islamism, the emergence of masses of armed jihadists, the spread of the theory and practice of jihad to adjacent territories and countries.
Another group in the Saudi elite, led by King Abdullah, his son Mitab, and at least part of the Al-Jilwie clan (relatives, but not direct descendants of Abdel Aziz al-Saud), advocates a different approach in the fight against Iran. This approach is expressed in the idea of King Abdullah in the form of creating a military-political, and in the long run, the economic "Arab EU" of the six Arabian monarchies. So far, the idea of a military alliance has been accepted by all six states of the peninsula, but Oman is against the full unification with the creation of supranational government bodies. The interests of the Sultan Qaboos, ruling the country of the specific direction of Islam of Ibadism lie outside total subordination to such a supranational structure. Naturally, not only theological differences lie at the basis of Oman’s refusal - there are also quite material problems of internal specifics, but in one way or another, the idea of King Abdullah is shared by the majority of Gulf monarchies, who understand that they now have to ensure their own security in many ways.
2013 year for the countries of the Arabian Peninsula can be considered a turning point. They have not yet come to the final choice of the path of development in the new conditions after the Geneva Conference on resolving the Iranian nuclear problem. Too little time has passed. But it is already clear that 2014 will become a key year for them, as there is less and less time to define and develop a policy to counter the new threats.