Difficult perfect storm swept Saudi Arabia. Some factors such as the pandemic and the collapse of global oil demand are beyond its control. Other factors, such as the war in Yemen and the unrest of the royal family, are the result of the Luck policy of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS). The Kingdom needs to make major changes in policy, first of all is to drastically cut military spending. The next U.S. government should push Saudi Arabia to move toward a scaled down, costly soldier with little salary.
Like many countries, Saudi Arabia has also been hit by coronaviruses. According to government figures that are not always reliable, there are approximately 70,000 cases in the country. During Ramadan and Eid, the curfew lasted for several weeks. The small pilgrimage tour of Mecca and Medina has been cancelled, and the annual pilgrimage will be closed in July. The mosque is not open for worship. The shutdown caused the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to lose millions of dollars in tourism revenue, especially in the Hajjaz region. At the same time, the Saudis promised to open soon, but did not provide any details.
The virus has spread inside the royal family. According to reports, the governor of Riyadh has been infected, and dozens of other princes and princesses are also sick. The king and crown prince cut their schedules to avoid infection. In the case of poor working and living conditions, foreign workers are particularly vulnerable, accounting for about two-thirds of infections in the country. Tens of thousands of people were repatriated, especially in South Asia.
The sharp drop in oil prices has cost the economy. Saudi Arabia needs to set oil prices at around $ 85 per barrel to fund its budget, but prices have been far below this level for many years. Now, the price of oil is about US $ 25 per barrel, lower than US $ 65 per barrel six months ago. They have spent 5 years to reduce reserves to make up for the lack of budget, reserves fell from 750 billion US dollars to about 500 billion US dollars today. In a severe economic crisis, before the global economy recovers, prices are unlikely to rebound.
The king ’s response was to triple the value-added tax, cut subsidies and implement austerity measures, all of which greatly hurt the poor. The possibility of social unrest is high, especially when the curfew is lifted.
Despite Saudi Arabia ’s repeated demands for a ceasefire, Yemen ’s mire has not disappeared in all this. All Saudi Arabian allies have given up this cause, even Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia is still occupying and providing funds. The Houthi rebels controlled most of the separatists in the north, the separatists in the south owned Aden, and fighting continued to erupt. Despite spending billions of dollars, the Saudis ’military performance was terrible.
The virus is out of control in Yemen. Five years of war and Saudi bomb attacks have paralyzed the medical infrastructure of the poorest countries in the Arab world. Now, the UN says that the health system "has actually collapsed." Unable to stop the spread of this disease, Aden suffered particularly hard. Given the porous nature of the border between Saudi Arabia and Yemini, Yemen ’s disaster will affect Saudi Arabia ’s fight against the pandemic.
The conflict in Yemen is part of a regional confrontation between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Last September, Saudi Arabia ’s important oil facility in Abqaiq was attacked by Iranian missiles, and Saudi Arabia was unable to respond to unprecedented violations of its sovereignty. This further proves that hundreds of billions of kingdom military expenditures have been wasted.
In March, MBS arrested his predecessor Prince Mohammed bin Nayev and his uncle Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz. In Saudi Arabia, the detention of members of the royal family is very rare, especially when a person (Ahmed) is the son of King Ibn Saudi, the founder of the modern kingdom. Other princes were also detained. There have been rumors that Nayef was seriously ill and even died.
The arrests showed that MBS was worried that family members would like to see him abolished. There is no doubt that many of them were stolen when he made an old-fashioned rectification at Ritz Carlton. MBS dispatching a Saudi Arabian squadron to murder journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul also disgusted some people, who wantonly destroyed the image of Saudi Arabia.
The pandemic and plunging oil prices doomed the crown prince ’s ambitious efforts to reform the Saudi Arabian economy by 2030. And establish a new city NEOM in northwestern Saudi Arabia. The Saudis will need to concentrate on taking austerity measures to end the Yemen war and cut huge defense budgets.
Saudi Arabia has been one of the top five countries in the world for military spending for many years. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute reported that the Saudis ’military spending in 2018 exceeded US $ 60 billion, which is actually a decrease from the previous year. Only the United States, China, Russia and India spent more money; Saudi Arabia's spending exceeded France, Germany or Japan. Its expenditure is three times that of Israeli military expenditure.
The Trump administration encourages Saudi Arabia to sell weapons, and has always exaggerated the quantity sold to Saudi Arabia. In fact, President Obama and Saudi Arabia have reached the largest single weapon agreement. Both governments support Yemen ’s disastrous war.
The next government should stop military assistance to Saudi Arabia until it ceases all military operations in Yemen and withdraws troops from any Yemeni territory. Only by clearly acknowledging that the Saudis are about to evacuate can the Husseins be persuaded to stop the attack. We should encourage Saudis, UAEs and others to pay for the humanitarian disaster they cause (although they are unlikely to honor their promises).
But the next government should do more. It should also support a global and regional effort to reduce military spending in the region. Washington should work with other arms suppliers such as the United Kingdom, France and Canada to encourage reductions in arms sales, not more. There are too many weapons in the area and need to be reduced. The region is facing a deadly virus, an economic depression, and it has been a long time since it has now focused on achieving peace. The cost of losing arms sales will be second only to the potential benefits of reducing tensions and conflicts in the region.