Doing battle with Saudi Arabia

Jonathan Power

* is an international foreign affairs columnist

Jamal KhoshiggiHow can Saudi Arabia be brought low? If the King won’t remove from power his 33 old son, Prince Mohammad bin Salman, there may be no alternative but to do battle with its regime. In a nonviolent manner for sure.

There seems little doubt that the powerful bin Salman gave the order to murder Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi Arabia’s dissident journalist.

This is not the only reason the reasonable World must confront Saudi Arabia. Others are, its massive buying and stockpile of Western military hardware. Another is its war in Yemen where it has killed tens of thousands of civilians. Another is that the oil rich kingdom still follows the intolerant strictures of the Wahabi sect of Islam.

In 2015 the German vice-chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel, publicly accused Saudi Arabia of financing Islamic extremism in the West and warned, it must stop. He said the Saudi regime was funding extremist mosques and communities that pose a danger to public security.

Thanks to Wikileaks we know that Hillary Clinton, when Secretary of State, wrote a cable in December of 2009. “Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for Al-Qaida, the Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan.” Clinton wrote.

In his autobiography, Richard Dearlove, former head of British Secret Intelligence Service MI6, (home of James Bond), wrote that some time before 9/11 Prince Bandar bin Sultan, then the powerful Saudi ambassador in Washington, told him. “The time is not far off in the Middle East when it will be literally ‘God Help the Shia’. More than a billion Sunnis have simply had enough of them.”

Another to confront the Saudis is the evidence that Saudi Arabia is considering developing nuclear weapons. Last week in a dispatch by David E. Sanger and William J. Broad the New York Times asked if bin Salman was “laying the ground work for building an atomic bomb”. As it is, Saudi Arabia may have arranged to buy an already made bomb from Pakistan whose own successful nuclear weapons’ program was funded in part by Saudi money. Pakistan called it the first “Sunni bomb”.

What’s to be done? Sanctions have already been imposed by the US on 17 Saudi officials close to bin Salman. Bin Salman has himself been spared. Trump has made clear in public the reason for this. Western countries need its oil. And, the arms market is too lucrative to let go.

The truth is. Although enormous, the sales of arms to the Saudis, is only a small percentage of America’s total arms production. It could be forsaken.

Oil is more problematic. But a partial boycott of Saudi oil is doable. And it will hurt the kingdom. Already oil prices are substantially below the country’s financial needs. Its financial deficit is dangerously high, observed the IMF. This is the time to hit Saudi Arabia.

Price of oil needs to be driven down. This means other oil producers increasing production. The first place to start is Iran whose oil industry is savaged by American sanctions. The second is Russia. Other countries that could increase their production are Nigeria, Mozambique, Angola, Ghana and Uganda. They’ll need Western help.

Western countries, with a minor increase in taxes, could reduce the consumption of oil significantly.

Would Saudi Arabia retaliate? Why would it? It needs income badly. It can’t afford not to sell as much as it can.

Let Saudi Arabia suffer until bin Salman is brought to justice.