Saudi Arabia: a kingdom in decline
Midkiff, James R.
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This thesis argues that the regime in Saudi Arabia is not prepared to survive a lengthy depression in the oil market. The thesis makes three specific arguments to support this contention. First, I show that Saudi Arabia is a rentier state. That is, unlike most states in the West, the Saudi state relies on external rents for revenues, not internal taxation. Rather than extracting resources from its citizenry, the state merely redistributes resources that come from abroad via the sale of oil. Huge oil revenues permitted the state to allow relations with its own society - relations forged through tribal wars and nascent extraction - to wither. Second, I demonstrate that the on-going depression of the oil market has already weakened the regime, as the growing strength of the Islamist movement indicates. Third, I argue that the oil market will remain weak for years to come, further undermining the Saudi royal family. I conclude by examining the implications for American interests. I argue that, while certain measures should be taken, the United States should not overreact to internal instability in Saudi Arabia. Like in 'revolutionay' Iran, oil will continue to be sold.
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