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The Saudis Are About to Attempt Their Own Version of Mao's Great Leap Forward
Trying to end its dependence on oil - and it's not going to work
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Saudi Defense Minister and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced his “Vision 2030” economic reform plan AFP
Saudi Defense Minister and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced his “Vision 2030” economic reform plan AFP

Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the son of the ailing King Salman and de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, has launched a highly ambitious plan under which he says his country will speedily “end its addiction to oil.” In terms of its revolutionary ambition, lack of realism and potential for disruption, the plan has parallels with Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward in 1958 which aimed to change China rapidly from an agricultural to an industrial economy, but produced only disaster.

The Saudi version of the Great Leap Forward is outlined in Vision 2030, a summary of the reform made public last week of which more details will be given in the National Transformation Plan that is to be published in late May or early June. Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed, who is defence minister and controls foreign and economic policy, wants the Kingdom to develop its own industries and services, sell off part of the state oil company Aramco to create the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, and end or reduce subsidies for fuel, water, electricity and other essentials. In practice, he wants to end the long-standing social contract under which Saudi nationals get easy jobs in the government sector and a high standard of living in return for political passivity and loyalty to the House of Saud.

It is not going to work. It is not the first time the ruler of an oil state in the Middle East believed that it would be a good idea to build up a diversified non-oil economy paid for by oil revenues. Saddam Hussein, already effective ruler of Iraq in the late 1970s, made a brief effort before the Iran-Iraq war to build factories and irrigation schemes, the wreckage of which can still be seen on the outskirts of Baghdad. But the most striking – and ominous – precedent for Prince Mohammed’s reforms is not Mao or Saddam, but the Shah of Iran in the five years before the revolution in 1979. Using Iran’s oil revenues, he proposed in 1974 for Iran’s economy to grow by a quarter every year under an expanded version of the Fifth Five Year Development Plan. The outcome of the Shah’s manic desire for growth and modernisation was destabilisation and popular rage that contributed significantly to his overthrow.

At the heart of the Shah’s downfall was ill-informed hubris and wishful thinking which led him to saw through the branch on which he was sitting. Monarchs and autocrats notoriously live lives detached from the real world by nature of their status, but this is doubly true of the leaders of oil states who mistake their ability to throw unlimited funds at a problem for real ability to cope with the world around them. This was true not only of Saddam and the Shah but of the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki whose vastly expensive army and security apparatus collapsed instantly when Isis attacked Mosul in 2014.

The Vision 2030 document might be dismissed as one more costly and far-fetched whim of an oil state autocrat fostered by self-interested advisors and consultants. Few take seriously Prince Mohammed’s belief that “in 2020 we can live without oil.” The share of the private sector in the economy is to rise from 40 per cent to 65 per cent by 2030 and Saudi Arabia, the third largest defence spender in the world, is to raise the proportion of arms made in the Kingdom from 2 per cent to 50 per cent over the same period. Experience shows that breakneck economic development, propelled by orders from the top, encourages pervasive corruption, while privatisation in unaccountable autocracies mostly benefits, going by what happened in Syria and Libya, a politically well-connected coterie close to the ruling family.

It is easy enough to be derisive or dismissive about Prince Mohammed’s revolutionary changes within the Kingdom. But the danger is that his naive arrogance is not confined to his handling of the economy. He is also pursuing a double-or-quits foreign policy of confrontation with Saudi Arabia’s neighbours. Since his father King Salman succeeded to the throne last year, Saudi Arabia has escalated its involvement on the rebel side in Syria and has launched a war in Yemen. On 17 April, it was a phone call from Prince Mohammed that terminated the talks between leading oil producers meeting in Doha who came close to agreeing a freeze on oil production. By vetoing any deal without the participation of Iran, which is seeking to rebuild its share of the oil market post sanctions, Prince Mohammed showed the extent and arbitrary nature of his power.

The German intelligence agency BND warned late last year that the concentration of so much power in the prince’s hands “harbours a latent risk that in seeking to establish himself in the line of succession in his father’s lifetime, he may overreach”. In the one-and-a-half page document, which was surprisingly made public, the BND expressed fears that Saudi Arabia had started “an impulsive policy of intervention.” Everything that has happened since confirms the BND view. Saudi Arabia, which of all countries in the Middle East has an interest in containing chaos, is instead helping to spread it.

Saudi Arabia certainly faces real problems that are not of Prince Salman’s making. The population of the Kingdom in 1950 was three million and today is 31 million, though eight million of these are foreign nationals. With the price of oil unlikely to reach its previous heights, oil revenues will be insufficient to look after a fast growing population of young Saudis and bribe them with non-jobs and subsidized living. The problems may be real but old regimes are notoriously at their most vulnerable when they recognise their failings and seek to remedy them by ill-advised and disruptive measures.

ORDER IT NOW

Some have a more cynical explanation for Saudi Arabia’s proposed Great Leap Forward, with its heady talk of Saudi citizens getting down to work, starting their own businesses and working in their own factories. They argue that the scheme is a tactic to divert the attention of Saudis away from the progressive privatization of Aramco, the one institution in the country that does make money and on which all else depends.

Initially just 5 per cent of Aramco, though the percentage may grow, will be floated with the proceeds being placed in a sovereign wealth fund that will eventually exceed $2 trillion. This will invest in the Kingdom and will presumably be under the control of Prince Mohammed. But sceptics say that turning the value of Saudi Arabia’s main asset into a liquid form is also be highly convenient for the Saudi royal family. They may calculate that the political and economic tide has permanently turned against them. If the Saudi royals ever have to flee like the Shah, then it is much in their interests to have their wealth in a form that they can be held abroad or swiftly moved to safety.

Patrick Cockburn is the author of ‘Chaos and Caliphate: Jihadis and the West in the Struggle for the Middle East’, published by OR Books, price £18. Readers can get a 15% discount by using the code INDEPENDENT

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Saudi Arabia 
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  1. Historian says:

    The population of the Kingdom in 1950 was three million and today is 31 million, though eight million of these are foreign nationals.

    Sounds like Saudi Arabia is following the wrong Chinese leader. Instead of embarking on a Saudi version of Mao’s Great Leap Forward, they need to adopt Deng Xiaoping’s one-child policy.

    I remember when Saudi Arabia’s per capita GDP was one of the highest in the world in the 1979s. Back then, they had high oil prices and only a few people. Now they have low oil prices and a larger population to spread the wealth over. Even second-rate European countries like Spain and Italy now have higher per-capita GDP than Saudi Arabia.

    If they don’t get their population under control, they will fall into the ranks of middle-income countries by the middle of the century.

  2. Good article. It goes a long way towards explaining the recent cacophony condemning the Saudis. I realize that there is a lot to be critical of, but until now the psittacine chorus has conveniently ignored all that. Sounds as if he wants his country to become somewhat independent of the usual big money crowd and we all know how that turns out.

    He’s no Socrates but he should be able to brush up on and understand the history of the 1930s at least. It’s the same old scheiss over and over all over again.

    Damn!

  3. @Historian

    The population of the Kingdom in 1950 was three million and today is 31 million, though eight million of these are foreign nationals.

    And there’s that part of the population problem, too.

  4. What strikes me is how poor Saudi education is despite the country’s wealth, well all Middle East countries. Saudi children have some of the lowest test scores among developed countries. Anecdotally, professors are reporting rampant cheating by Saudi students attending US colleges. The large percentage of foreigners in Saudi Arabia are performing both physical and cerebral labor. They will leave when the royal family and other elites flee, leaving a citizenry that is poorly prepared to take care of itself.

    By contrast, Singapore had an illiteracy rate of 40 percent in the 1960s. Their schools now produce some of the highest performing students in the world.

    http://timssandpirls.bc.edu/data-release-2011/pdf/Overview-TIMSS-and-PIRLS-2011-Achievement.pdf

  5. CanSpeccy says: • Website

    At the heart of the Shah’s downfall was ill-informed hubris and wishful thinking which led him to saw through the branch on which he was sitting.

    Hardly illuminating analysis. As for the factories and irrigation schemes, “the wreckage of which can still be seen on the outskirts of Baghdad,” that surely has more to do with 140,000 tons of high explosive, courtesy George Dubya Bush, than Saddam’s bad industrial planning.

    • Replies: @Johnny Alamo
  6. “Watch this!”

    /Foghorn Leghorn

  7. Biff says:

    No amount of industrial planning can compete with bombing raids, international sanctions, and no-fly zones. And bad Industrail planning can be successful if you are a mouse that is able to roar.

  8. Rich says:

    What other choice does he have, though? Rumors of Saudi Arabia passing their peak oil reserves, a large population and enemies all around, he has to try something. The effort may fail, will probably fail, but if he does nothing, he and his fellow royals might find themselves in the same position the so many European royals found themselves in – headless.

  9. Svigor says:

    Sounds like Saudi Arabia is following the wrong Chinese leader. Instead of embarking on a Saudi version of Mao’s Great Leap Forward, they need to adopt Deng Xiaoping’s one-child policy.

    I was thinking something similar. Say, strictly limit welfare to enough to support a couple and a child or two. Limit public education funding to the first child or two. Etc. ‘Course I have no clue how the system works now. It’s not like the western media are helpful in this regard. They mostly talk macroeconomics and burqas and bans on female drivers. They don’t even talk much about the Saudi penchant for foreign wage-slave labor, how they’re mistreated, etc.

    I do know that the Arabian peninsula is some of the best land in the world for solar power production. It would be in the Saudis’ interests to promote development of solar power.

    The population of the Kingdom in 1950 was three million and today is 31 million, though eight million of these are foreign nationals.

    And there’s that part of the population problem, too.

    Not nearly the problem a westerner might assume. Arabs have few problems sending these wage-slaves home when they become troublesome.

  10. “the long-standing social contract under which Saudi nationals get easy jobs in the government sector and a high standard of living in return for political passivity and loyalty to the House of Saud.”

    The same thing is being done, not tried, in the United States. There are still large numbers of folks, defense contractors, their public co-workers, the agencies they control – that provide a high standard of living to SOME Americans. But, there is no “long standing” social contract in the Kingdom nor in the USA.

    Moreover, both countries are addicted to oil. The Kingdom is a great customer of the US it also operates at the pleasure of the US and has plenty of influence. But times change, long ago ABSCAM was just a tv show for amusement purposes.

    There are now countless articles by the mockingbird contingent, including long standing employees like Cockburn who are busy changing your perception of Saudi Arabia into a troubled country, that might need to be called less than an ally.

    • Replies: @Jonathan Revusky
  11. Russian empire and then USSR exhibited huge industrialization and increase in literacy in 1920-1940. Tragically, the way to achieve that was the terror of communist de-kulakizatjon of 1930 (about 20 million of peasants dead), golodomor of 1934-36, gulag during all that time. Terror of 1937 was more known to, and directed at, educated classes and party members; it was cruel*). And the eventual goal of that rush industrialization was Lenin-Trotsky-Stalin’s plan of world domination of communism (see Comintern’s serious work.) If the eventual plan of Saudis is creation of world caliphate, it could produce extra initial enthusiasm, but the end probably will be similar to USSR.
    Derbyshire: We are doomed.
    Not we only, but Saudis as well.

    *) My uncle, one of the pioneers of television in USSR, ethnically Russian, descendant of serfs, and not a party member, was arrested in Leningrad in 1937 and apparently was shot same year. He even was not a leader of a large team. RIP. Nobody (including his daughters, i.e. my cousins) knows where was he buried.

  12. Vendetta says:
    @Triumph104

    Lazy, arrogant, entitled, and undisciplined. Same reason their military remains a joke next to Iran, Turkey, and Pakistan’s in spite of their absurd levels of spending.

  13. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @Rich

    Exactly.

    I would say though, that the Saudis should have spent their dough on stabilizing their neighbors. Sunni, Shia, whatever. And made sure they were not beholden to the west for protection and not tied to the petro dollar.

    The kind of extremism that Saudi Arabia has sown will make it so that it will be hard for them to transition to any other kind of economy besides an oil economy.

    Jihadi fighters will not make good factory workers, and fat cat government workers will not make good management.

    They could have pursued a souped up version. Of Hong Kong where Saudis acted as the world’s financial center. But being tied to the US dollar and banks prevents that.

    Predictably, the Saudis choose the worse track they could have. Trying to control the entire middle east by warring with Iran and Syria. This is the least likely track to provide success, but was the only one that would have preserved the present order where the Saudi elites could live like kings.

    More likely Saudi Arabia will be split, and the elites will flee to London with a billion or so and Saudi Arabia will be no more.

  14. Sorry Patrick, But Saudi is no China! Chinese have thousands years of culture and very good education system. As opposed to KSA with no culture, mostly nomads with no education system and near zero educated people! They only can use their wealth to satisfy their hunger for food and sex! No hope for them for the next 1000 years!

    • Agree: Max Payne
    • Replies: @Marcus
  15. anon • Disclaimer says:

    FREEDOM HOUSE rates Saudi Arabia among the least free countries on earth. It scores a 7 (the lowest possible score) for civil rights and political liberties. Hard to see how you can have serious laws about financial transparency, investor rights, etc. against such a background.

    However there is another point here. The Arabs NEED to sell their oil at least as much as others need to buy it. What else does the Arab world produce, (other then terrorism and political chaos)?

    One last thing; despite the many claims to the contrary, the United States actually imports very little of its energy needs from the middle east or the Persian gulf. It is a complete canard that the USA is dependent on this region of the world for its energy needs.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  16. @Rich

    You wrote:

    if he [Saudi king] does nothing, he and his fellow royals might find themselves in the same position the so many European royals found themselves in – headless.

    I am not very good in European history, but AFAIK, only small percent of E. royals were executed:
    during French Revolution of the end of 1700-s, several British monarchs, and the last Russian czar Nikolai 2nd and his family.
    To my poor knowledge, most of E. royals, even when they ended their royal status, they were quite alive, and not terribly poor.
    Can you point any other names of executed European monarchs ?

    Having asked that question, I have nothing to say about Saudi monarchs.

  17. Joe Mack says:
    @Historian

    Get them back doing goats and camels and you don’t need harsh Oriental policy.
    Will get a poster of the Saudi Royals hanging from lamp posts, if lamp posts and rope exist in Riyadh.
    Frack, baby, frack.
    The destruction of the Mideast rapists will give satisfaction like the Berlin Wall going down.
    Right Here, Right Now

    Hope the Royals do not get out and have lavish lives in Paris, Zurich or London.

  18. Jamie_NYC says:
    @Triumph104

    Absolutely.

    I read recent interview that the prince gave to Bloomberg: he compares himself with Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. This plan is going to fail spectacularly. The only question is how much longer they have – that depends on the price of oil: $50 per barrel may give them another decade or two, at $30, it will be sayonara in 5 years.

  19. Rehmat says:

    Saudi ‘royals’ with Jewish family roots, were installed rulers of Najef by the British colonialists to control Islam’s two most sacred sites, Ka’aba (Makkah), and the Prophet’s Mosque (Medina) in order to control the re-emergence of political Islam. Until oil was found in late 1940s, Saudi ‘royals’ only income was Muslim pilgrims.

    Once the oil dries up – Saudi ‘royals’ would prefer to immigrate to the western countries where they have invested more than $6 trillion. That would be the beginning of a true Islamic rule in the renamed ‘Islamic Republic of Nejaf’ – and the end of Riyadh-Tel Aviv love affair.

    Early this month, Egypt’s Crypto-Jew military dictator Gen. al-Sisi returned two Red Sea islands to Saudi ‘royals’ under pressure from Washington and Tel Aviv. Israeli army radio called the transfer kosher.

    On April 13, 2016, the Muslim Press reported that two Red Sea islands were being used to conduct joint Saudi-Israel military training exercises.

    A Jewish military source has also claimed that Israeli Colonel David Salami, and Saudi Major-general Ahmed bin Saleh Al-Zahrani were selected as the joint commander of the Navy….

    https://rehmat1.com/2016/05/01/israelization-of-saudi-military/

    • Replies: @AnObserver
    , @anon
    , @jimmyriddle
  20. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @anon

    The US is dependent on this region not for the oil itself but for the dollar hedgemony that flows from this region.

  21. Of course it won’t work: it is impossible to replace Saudi Aramco by selling 5% of its shares and investing the proceeds. That strategy might be able to replace 5% of Aramco, but only if the money is invested wisely.

  22. @Rehmat

    The Saudis were never installed as rulers over Najaf in Iraq. However, they have once sacked the city. I think you meant Najd instead. But still, Makkah and Madinah are not in Najd either; they are in Al-Hijaz.

  23. Daniel H says:
    @Triumph104

    Comparing Singapore to Saudi Arabia, the relevant facts: what is the average IQ of Saudis in Saudi Arabia, what is the average IQ of the Chinese (who did all the building and development) in Singapore. That is all we need to know.

    Saudi Arabia is doomed.

  24. Svigor says:

    I would say though, that the Saudis should have spent their dough on stabilizing their neighbors. Sunni, Shia, whatever. And made sure they were not beholden to the west for protection and not tied to the petro dollar.

    You’re assuming that was an option open to the Saudis, but I’m not sure it’s the case. Seems possible (if not likely) that they export jihadis because they can’t figure out a way to stop producing them.

    As for conflict with Iran and Syria, well, it usually takes two (or three, in this case) to tango.

    FREEDOM HOUSE rates Saudi Arabia among the least free countries on earth. It scores a 7 (the lowest possible score) for civil rights and political liberties. Hard to see how you can have serious laws about financial transparency, investor rights, etc. against such a background.

    They do okay on economic freedom, owing to oil wealth and the Koran. Very low taxes (do they even have an income tax?) and respect for property rights.

    One last thing; despite the many claims to the contrary, the United States actually imports very little of its energy needs from the middle east or the Persian gulf. It is a complete canard that the USA is dependent on this region of the world for its energy needs.

    A distinction without much of a difference. If west Asia stopped producing oil, the people that buy their oil (east Asia and Europe, I’m assuming) would go shopping for oil elsewhere, including where we shop for oil (the Americas, I’m assuming) and the price would go into orbit.

  25. Marcus says:
    @Monty Ahwazi

    Also they spend huge amounts attempting to spread their troglodyte ideology throughout the world, notably in the former USSR.

  26. anon • Disclaimer says:
    @Rehmat

    ‘Saudi ‘royals’ would prefer to immigrate to the western countries’

    Just like YOU did huh, sport!

  27. joe webb says:

    remember the Arab Spring? I was the first person to laugh and predict a very stinging winter.

    The Great Spring Forward for Arabs….Average IQ of 84. If the Chinese Great Leap , even with average IQ at ,say 103, could not leap the hurdle and collapsed in a spasm of Cultural Revolution, the Arab Great Leap will play out even more comically, with of course their own Cultural Revolution that will kill a lot of folks.

    One damned thing after another. Damned because of utopian Ideas, like Culture, Not Genes!
    WEB Dubois, the black writer, said that color was The problem of the 20th century. He was half right. Color is The problem of the 21st century. No Cultural Revolution will make a dent in the genes. Culture comes from the genes.

    As EO Wilson put it, “genes put Culture on a very short leash.” At the personal and individual level, it takes growing up for the genes to be listened to by the average B student , white variety, of a high altruism quotient.

    My favorite remark from a 40 year old Norwegian gal, about 5 years ago while traveling in Norway, “We were very naive.” Immigration dept. she is a computer whiz working in the Norway Defense Dept, figuring out how to deploy Norwegian jet airplanes with regard to the Russians at their northern border. Lots of money Norway, so they can afford useless projects like this.

    Culture, when I hear the word Culture, I take out my Biology.

    Joe Webb

    • Replies: @anon
  28. joe webb says:

    even more interesting in the annals of Darke Dreams, is the African Space Program, called for by various African pols. To the moon Alice…(Ralph, Jackie Gleason in the TV series of the 50s…the honeymooners ? )

    Joe Webb

  29. woodNfish says:
    @Triumph104

    Saudi Arabia is not a developed country, and the prince is delusional.

    • Agree: Andrei Martyanov
    • Replies: @Andrei Martyanov
  30. Canute52 says:

    Only the second and now, emerging third generations know anything other than nomadic camel-riding and the endless hunt for food. Wealth was literally dumped upon these people like a winning lottery ticket and no one in the nation knows anything about work, let alone structuring an entrepreneurial endeavor. They are tied to a dysfunctional religion, they have built a society around an ephemeral resource that is on the decline and they have neither the spirit nor the character as a people to emerge as anything other than the depraved and entirely confused people that they have been for the last several decades. At some point, the declining influx of global wealth to this royal kingdom of repression, subjugation and death – will fall apart. It will be a blood bath. There is really no getting around this fact. Everything in Saudi society is based upon inflexible absolutes. There will be no bending in the wind.

    • Replies: @Big Bill
  31. Andrei Martyanov [AKA "SmoothieX12"] says: • Website
    @woodNfish

    Saudi Arabia is not a developed country, and the prince is delusional.

    But…but, there are so many expensive cars and shopping malls;-) Well, truth is, NO Muslim country fits even remotely the most basic criteria of being “developed”, but least of all–KSA. In terms of, being actively discussed in other threats on UNZ, FIRE so called “economy”–sure, KSA can spend a truck load of cash buying all kinds of expensive toys for itself (obviously ALL of them made in the infidel lands). But building a shopping mall or another skyscraper and producing serious machinery are two very different things. And then comes this touchy-feely issue of R&D, which requires a very, how to put it politically correctly, infidelish way of looking at things;-) In the end, this whole piece on why this whole KSA plan is delusional could have been easily answered–enough to ask anyone on the streets of KSA what would they prefer: to work in the bank or study engineering and work at machine building plant (granted, one can be built and operate one without infidels). Unless we are talking about utterly sublime individuals, anyone with even rudimentary knowledge about KSA will have no problems predicting the outcome of such a poll. The only real exception is Sunni Turkey but its development into more or less industrial nation was achieved by rejecting everything Sunni Islam stood for. Fact is, Attaturk is known to order to collect all Al-Ghazali works from libraries and burn them.

    • Replies: @Sam Haysom
  32. @Rehmat

    The British supported the Hashemites.

    The Sauds were the protégés of the USA/Standard Oil – the first US foray into the region in the 20th century.

  33. anon • Disclaimer says:
    @joe webb

    I knew as soon as the mainstream media (especially CNN) started making a big deal about the “Arab spring” that it would be a bust. Arabs don’t have the I.Q. levels of the Chinese or other Asians and they have widespread first cousin marriages. Moreover their culture just is not conducive to the modern world. There are 22 Arab countries in the world. None of them are democracies. None of them have any basic respect for human rights. There has never been a free democratic Arab country in all of human history. That should tell you all you need to know right there.

    • Replies: @Johnny Alamo
  34. Modernisation of Saudi Arabia is impossible with the Wahhabists still menacing the country. Several decades of brainwashing has produced a worthless population which is incapable of being productively employed in any modern industry or service.

    Some have suggested that this is a plan for the Royal family to bug out well before the collapse. This may well be true. The living conditions of the vast majority of Saudi “citizens” is actually abominable (and may come as a surprise to Westerners used to seeing flashy Saudi princes driving their Ferraris in Mayfair): http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-03-25/new-eye-opening-documentary-completely-exposes-barbaric-saudi-regime

    The march of technology is already laying coal to waste: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-05-01/dubai-s-dewa-gets-5-bids-to-expand-solar-power-complex-in-desert

    Oil will soon be laid to waste too. A decade is nothing in the context of history.

  35. @Andrei Martyanov

    It sounds like even the deputy crown prince gets that. His intiative is more about using oil wealth to diversity Saudi’s investments and generated new cash flows as opposed to new domestic industry. Saudi does have on advantage on most petro-states in that they do refine quite a bit of oil for export and domestic use. So they have captured some value added dollars.

  36. @anon

    I am not sure where the IQ figures come from, or how accurate they are, but I have to think the low average IQ for ‘Arabs’ must be an accurate figure, judging by the way the middle eastern Islamic societies operate.

    Their leaders finance terrorism and the Sunni-Shia blood conflict which has been going on for hundreds of years. They kill each other almost indiscriminately; they heedlessly destroy their near and ancient history; they loot as if they are entitled to anything they can drag away. Their leaders are so corrupt that any money or income must go through layers of bribery and corruption, end result is that there is little left to be used for actual infrastructure improvement. Their societies are either absolute monarchs or a combination of warlord and strong-man oligarchs, thus the common man or woman has no input into how government works except to take to the streets or commit assassinations. Despite the progress in the rest of the world, Arab societies today refuse to give women any reasonable place in society, though there had been some small progress in the pre-Taliban era. Even worse is their cultural acceptance and approval of pedophilia, seen in their ‘dancing boys’. The list of cultural differences between any reasonable near-modern society and Arab societies is a huge gulf which will not be spanned anytime soon.

    Beware, any country allowing Arab immigration, except in very small numbers – you are accepting people who are not only culturally different, but also desire to continue to be different, *and* many of whom desire to disrupt your society through terrorism unless you A. accept their stone-age way of life, and B. make over your own society into their Islamic stone-age image.

    I see no reason why the Sunni-Shia blood conflict has continued since the year 700-something, but it continues to this day. Saudis are the worst at financing and advancing Sunni-Shia conflict from the middle east to Indonesia and around the rest of the world. Until the day that those cultures, if they can be called cultures at all, get together and bind up their religious differences, and reduce their strict Wahabism to something people can live with day to day, they will all remain only a small step above stone age living, cannibalizing each other in every way possible.

    Remove the oil revenue, and those countries revert to the Dark Ages. But wait – they are already living a version of the Dark Ages… with no end in sight for them.

    Sure, the US had a hand in de-stabilizing the middle east, but at some point those societies have to either improve by their own efforts, or live forever with the dysfunctional culture they seem to love so much.

    • Replies: @anon
  37. @CanSpeccy

    The US played a huge role in the destruction and destabilization of Iraq. But that was a lot of years in the past.

    The Sunni-Shia blood conflict has been ongoing for centuries. Until that is settled, it is a cinch Iraq or most any Arab country will never come together as a society and re-build their country.

    Matter of fact, Iraq and other Arab societies are currently destroying their infrastructure more than they are rebuilding, from religious fanaticism calling for the destruction of ancient relics, to riots, rebellion, guns, bombs and corrupt politicians.

    No sensible Iraqi who successfully left Iraq is interested in returning ‘home’ because in doing so they could get the killed just for being on the wrong side of the Sunni-Shia line on any given day, or killed as collateral damage from corruption, religious fanaticism, riots, rebellions, warlords, IEDs or drone strikes.

    • Replies: @Talha
    , @CanSpeccy
    , @Max Payne
  38. Talha says:
    @Johnny Alamo

    If I may…

    Much of what you say is on point; the Muslim societies need to take full responsibility for their deficiencies and work to correct them. The fanaticism has to be excised. No amount of blaming the outside world will fix their problems – in fact, it will just perpetuate them – first road to recovery is to admit one has a problem, no? Insofar as that is concerned, the top scholars of the Sunni/Shia world have been making strides to work on easing tensions as is evidenced by initiatives such as the ‘Amman Message’ which declared: “Whosoever is an adherent to one of the four Sunni Schools of Jurisprudence (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi‘i and Hanbali), the Ja‘fari (Shi‘i) School of Jurisprudence, the Zaydi School of Jurisprudence, the Ibadi School of Jurisprudence, and the Thahiri School of Jurisprudence, is a Muslim. Declaring that person an apostate is impossible.”

    http://www.ammanmessage.com/en/conferencesandsymposia.html

    It was signed by the top scholars on both sides. Hopefully, with time, this will percolate down to the masses.

    Likewise, the West (at least the Anglo world – since this can’t be placed at the Swedes, Italians, etc.) needs to take responsibility for waking up the Sunni-Shia tension which was at a historical detente since the last two flare-ups (Ottoman/Safavid wars and after he crushing of the first Wahhabi rebellion by the Egyptians under Muhammad Ali):


    And we need to start the overdue disengagement; let them figure it out. It only concerns the West as regards potential terrorism which will be less likely when our hands are not involved.

    At this point there has been massive malinvestment of the oil revenue. Far too much has been diverted to; a) the extremists among the Salafis and Wahhabis that are causing mayhem wherever they go, b) undermining traditional Islamic scholarship by the spread of Salafi/Wahabbi publications and schools and c) hugely wasteful ego-bulding schemes like the constructions of lofty towers:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_tallest_buildings_in_the_world
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_future_tallest_buildings_in_the_world

    This, incidentally, was accurately predicted as a sign of coming of The Hour in the first hadith reported in the book of Imam Muslim (may God grant him a high status):
    “…that you will find barefooted, destitute goat-herds vying with one another in the construction of magnificent buildings.”

    “Barefooted, destitute goat-herds” basically describes the Arabs of that peninsula a generation or so ago, and they may well return to that once the oil revenue dries up.

    Peace.

    • Replies: @Talha
  39. Talha says:
    @Talha

    Good old internet…that first video of the Shah and Prince Salman seems like it may have been spliced together.

    Here is a more solid source showing cordial relations at the very top level before the revolution of ’79:
    http://www.kingsaud.org/gallery/details/711

    Let’s not forget Egypt:
    http://www.gettyimages.com/detail/news-photo/wedding-of-shah-of-iran-with-fawzia-princess-king-farouk-of-news-photo/105216746

  40. CanSpeccy says: • Website
    @Johnny Alamo

    The Sunni-Shia blood conflict has been ongoing for centuries. Until that is settled, it is a cinch Iraq or most any Arab country will never come together as a society and re-build their country.

    Easy to blame the victims. But unjustified. Under Saddam sectarian violence was suppressed.

    The US-led invasion of Iraq not only caused massive and deadly damage to infrastructure — sewage disposal, water and electrical supply — thereby causing hundreds of thousands of indirect casualties and tremendous social stress, but used saboteurs to incite violence. Civil conflict that would tear the country apart was the intended outcome.

    The US/UK determined to destroy Iraq because its secular government was using a trillion-dollar oil reserve to build a modern economy able to support an advance military that would threaten US/Israeli hegemony in the ME.

    • Replies: @This Is Our Home
  41. @Jeff Barnes

    There are now countless articles by the mockingbird contingent, including long standing employees like Cockburn….

    Alert! This one can see!

    (Drat, where did he get those sunglasses?)

  42. anon • Disclaimer says:
    @Johnny Alamo

    For Arab I.Q. levels may I suggest the book IQ AND THE WEALTH OF NATIONS. There are many others. It is also worth noting it is estimated at least one third of Arab marriages are to first cousins. This doesn’t improve matters. Perhaps the best way to see Arab dysfunctionality though is to just simply look at every Arab country in the world. You see the same things. No democracy, freedom, free speech, or press, no equal rights for women or minorities. All of them are basket cases. As for the cultural acceptance of pedophilia, it should be noted the prophet himself married a six year old girl. Finally you make an excellent point about just how unwise Arab immigration really is. It is a Trojan horse for terrorism and a host of other social ills.

    • Replies: @CanSpeccy
    , @Talha
    , @Erik Sieven
  43. Max Payne says:
    @Johnny Alamo

    The US played a huge role in the destruction and destabilization of Iraq. But that was a lot of years in the past.

    How old are you squirt?

  44. CanSpeccy says: • Website
    @anon

    Finally you make an excellent point about just how unwise Arab immigration really is. It is a Trojan horse for terrorism and a host of other social ills.

    Not unwise.

    Destroying the West is the aim, isn’t it?

    To reduce Europe and N. America to a state of chaos, where Christianity, and silly notions about democracy and human rights can be dispensed with once and for all.

    After that will come the great cull. Why after all would our treasonous elite want more than a couple of hundred million serfs to run the highly automated industrial machine that will support the life style they intend to enjoy? Obviously, they will opt for a world uncluttered by useless proles.

  45. Talha says:
    @anon

    Not going to argue most of those points, because they are pretty spot on; lots of dysfunctionality in the Arab world. Though I still think the jury is out on the optimum model for social organization; majoritarian democratic nation-states, tribal confederations, monarchies, etc. each seem to have their particular benefits and negatives – I guess each culture decides what fits their priorities. For instance, if the good of the tribe is paramount, it seems facile to talk about one-man-one-vote.

    As for the cultural acceptance of pedophilia, it should be noted the prophet himself married a six year old girl.

    This one is one of those factoids that people pull whichever way they want. First, let’s set a definition:
    “A pedophile is a person who has a sustained sexual orientation toward children, generally aged 13 or younger…”

    So far, so good? If accepted, one has to declare that marriages for pedophiles are legal in Massachusetts and New Hampshire (girls of 12 and 13, respectively, can get married with parental consent:
    https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/table_marriage

    One must also accept the fact that Anglo-Saxon common law (as applied in the British Isles and the US) up until 1900s was just fine with having the age of consent fluctuate between 12 (1275 CE) to 10 (1576 CE) and then spread out among the various states at mostly 10 and some 12. Delaware was an outlier and thought 7 was fine:
    http://chnm.gmu.edu/cyh/website-reviews/230?section=primarysources&source=24

    “The theft of a girl’s chastity was seen as a property crime against her father and future husband. If two people were married and had sex, no matter what their age, no crime was committed because a woman was her husband’s property. ”
    From the chapter ‘Age of Consent’ in the book ‘Sex and Society’

    Can we accept they were all pedophiles (or enablers)? Or are we going to be hypocrites about it?

    For the record, the Lady Aisha (may God be pleased with her) was contracted to marry at 6 (a marriage contract is valid at any age, consummation cannot take place until the woman is physically able to bear it – even if this extends beyond normal puberty – this is the traditional Islamic ruling with almost no variation between the Sunni schools), but consummation did not take place until 9 (by the most authentic transmissions attributed to her), the least of the age of menarche:
    “… it can happen as early as age 9 or as late as 15…”
    http://www.webmd.com/children/tc/menarche-topic-overview

    She further acknowledged this by her fatwa (being one of the top scholars of the first generation), which is a reflection of the realities of early menstruation of the women of her time and locality:
    “When a girl is nine years old, she is a woman.” – reported in Tirmidhi

    Biological adulthood (with the onset of puberty) is the only universal benchmark one can use to determine when a human becomes an adult (everything else is subject to cultural or historic norms):
    “Biologically, an adult is a human being or other organism that has reached sexual maturity.”

    Adolescence: Psychology, Human Development

    I don’t like to bring this kind of subject matter into the discourse on this forum, but people use that term way too flippantly when speaking about a man I deeply care about.

    Peace.

    • Replies: @Talha
    , @anon
  46. Talha says:
    @Talha

    Sorry, the link in my original post seems to be dead, here is the source for my claim:

    The chapter ‘Age of Consent’ in the book ‘Sex and Society’

  47. anon • Disclaimer says:
    @Talha

    Nice try with the whitewash.. Trial by combat was theoretically on the books in British law until almost 1900 before it was technically abolished. It had died out as a legal option centuries ago.

  48. Talha says:

    If you say so, chief…

    You don’t recall Jerry Lee Lewis, one assumes:
    http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/entertainthis/2014/10/28/myra-williams-jerry-lee-lewis-13-year-old-bride-speaks-out/77745460/

    If men are able, a subset of them will have no problem with marrying young women especially from pre-industrial lands (or times) where/when life expectancy is much lower than our modern standards – but even today some would in the US. There is no denying that far less men in the US did this than, say, in Yemen, but it did happen and it was legal.

    And of course, there’s the sex trade…
    “The sale of sex by pre-adolescent children was not always considered shocking, as it now…After 1885, age of consent laws changed around the country, reaching 16 in New Yorkin 1889 and 18 in 1895. Prior to these changes, the age of consent in most places in the United States was 10 to 12 years. Gilfoyle describes a level of acceptability of sex with pre-pubescent girls, citing the absence of the risk of pregnancy and the myth that sex with a virgin would cure sexually transmitted infections.”

    Prostitution and Sex Work

    I don’t know chief, 1885 doesn’t seem to be exactly ancient history to me.

    If your analogy of trial-by-combat laws is correct, then the removal of such laws from the books would have been perfunctory. However, the effort to remove them is described thusly…
    “Age of sexual consent, for example, rose from 7 during colonial times to 10, 12, and eventually as high as 14 during the eighteenth centuries. By the late 1800s, the average age of consent in the United States was 14. Across the nation, however the age of consent was raised slowly, unevenly, and with great reluctance. Legislators’ opposition to changing age of consent laws reveals important pre-ninteenth century understandings of childhood and child sexuality, as well as female sexuality.”

    Not My Kid: What Parents Believe about the Sex Lives of Their Teenagers

    Was anybody fighting to keep trial-by-combat instituted?

    Which basically coincides with Prof. Jonathan Brown’s research that no one in the West even criticized the age of Lady Aisha (may God be pleased with her) until the Orientalist Margoliouth in 1905 (start at 5:05 for the gist):

    Peace.

    • Replies: @anon
  49. Ahmed says:

    Lots of negative feed from mostly westerners (so it appears).
    Here are some fact to ponder.

    1) Western power and wealth is in the few hands working from behind the scenes, call them international bankers (IB)
    2) IB run the US FED, a private cartel.
    3) The house was Saud was set in the same fashion, rendering no future plan for them to meet the 21 st century.
    4) The same IB set in motion the cold war, war on terror and mostly all other wars.
    5) One sees the Anglo white guys all riled up to make war for the IB, and destroy any real development in the middle east, Iraq is case in point. What a bunch of brain washed retards.
    6) The IQ based on race is mostly bogus science, the white race cannot accept that when they are on a level field, all is equal as seen by progress made by other races.
    7) Please read books such as confessions of a economic hit man and other to see what I am saying.
    8) The petro Dollars has made both oil rich arabs and the US/UK rich beyond their collective outputs because of the monopoly it lends.
    9) Look at Iran, has moved out of the clutches of the IB, doing fine, if left alone to develop.
    10) The coming day of reckoning will in the long run be a good thing for the arabs as they will be forced to meet the 21 st century. If they play wise there will be less blood shed.
    11) lets us not forget that the US has been at war for some 200 years of its 230 years of history, maybe controlled by the IB for that long?
    Have a good day.

    • Replies: @Talha
  50. @anon

    what has IQ told do with women and minority rights, democracy etc.?

    • Replies: @anon
  51. […] Saudis to Try Their Own Version of Mao’s Great Leap Forward  by Patrick Cockburn […]

  52. Talha says:
    @Ahmed

    Salaam Ahmed,

    It seems you are both Muslim and new here, a couple of points…

    1. Take it easy on the ‘Anglo white guys’ stuff – there are plenty of well-balanced, intelligent and objective ‘White guys’ posting here – these should be your audience.
    2. Then there are ‘those guys’ – these guys are ideologically driven and rarely get swayed, avoid them as Lucian’s advice if he met a ‘philosopher on the road, I will shun him, as I would a mad dog’ – they mostly spew invective.
    3. Respect and you will get respect in return (except from ‘those guys’).
    4. Since you are Muslim (I assume) – back up your assertions with sources – the odds are stacked against you here – if all you bring is opinion, you lose. If you bring facts, people will listen (except ‘those guys’).
    5. There is a good factual basis to assert certain people have a hereditary advantage with intelligence vis-a-vis others (just as another people may have a muscle-to-mass advantage or higher resistance to disease, etc.) – the science may not be as solid as physics, but the research is there and developing.
    The Prophet (pbuh) was reported to have alluded to something like this when speaking about the Persians:
    “If knowledge was suspended from Pleiades and the Arabs are unable to reach it, then a man from the sons of Persia will be able to reach it.”
    6. There is no factual basis to assert that intelligence is THE determinant in the success of a people vis-a-vis others.

    I’ll be quitting once Shaban hits to detox for Ramadan. Again, welcome and happy posting.

    Salaam,
    Talha

  53. anon • Disclaimer says:
    @Erik Sieven

    Proper spelling and good grammar.

  54. anon • Disclaimer says:
    @Talha

    I was not aware of Jerry Lee Lewis being the founder of a global religion. Thanks for that. I could mention that thirteen is older then six, but I don’t think either age is appropriate.

    I am always amazed at the mental gymnastics Muslims go through to rationalize their cult.

  55. Joe Mack says:

    When the Saudi royal family is hanging from lamp posts in Riyadh and their sand has no more oil, when the redacted 9/11 report shows their guilt, I hope Trump drops a nuke on Mecca. That would be just.
    When has a country so deserved misery and destruction as much as Saudi Arabia? I mean post 1945?

  56. Igor says:

    Nice to see, how the sunny boy destroys his country and his fellow countrymen.
    He can ask Shiias in the eastern part of Saudi Arabia for help.

  57. Big Bill says:
    @Canute52

    Beautifully and succinctly put.

    Not cruel, not hateful, just the truth.

  58. @CanSpeccy

    You’ve hidden a lot of relevant meaning with your use of the word suppression. Ethnic violence has been a fact in the region forever and under Sadden Hussein it was overwhelming but since one group was supreme it was also overwhelmingly one sided.

  59. […] of the looming IPO and other domestic reforms, Saudi Arabia and Saudi Aramco will likely be under the microscope as never before. (The Economist […]

  60. […] of the looming IPO and other domestic reforms, Saudi Arabia and Saudi Aramco will likely be under the microscope as never before. (The Economist […]

  61. […] of the looming IPO and other domestic reforms, Saudi Arabia and Saudi Aramco will likely be under the microscope as never before. (The Economist […]

  62. […] of the looming IPO and other domestic reforms, Saudi Arabia and Saudi Aramco will likely be under the microscope as never before. (The Economist […]

  63. Zhu says:
    @Triumph104

    Singapore is a city-state, not really comparable to Saudi Arabia.

  64. Medvedev says:

    UAE diversified their economy and seem to be doing quite well building 4-unit nuclear power plant.

    KSA has two problems: IQ and demographics.
    These problems were solved in UAE and Qatar by importing swaths of engineers from USA, Europe and East Asia. And millions of serves to do menial work. But natives represent just 10-15% of the population, the rest are expats (low-wage menial workers and highly-skilled professionals).

    KSA won’t be able to solve these problems, since it is impossible to import 200 million menial workers and engineers to do the job. Population of KSA is just too big, too poor and there aren’t enough jobs to begin with. Small gulf countries (UAE, Qatar) positioned themselves as international hubs for travel, flights, tourism and finance. Sorry, there is not enough room for a big and awkward KSA, same way as Poland can’t become next Luxembourg $)
    The fate of Saudi Arabia is gradual demise or huge disruption (like Arab Spring) with a fast fall.

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