A Theocracy Under Threat

  • David Cowan


In the 1970s, oil became the new gold and oil pricing replaced the gold standard in our carbon economy. This power, and the oil economy that facilitated it, is weakening. For Saudi this suggests a very different future and raises the specter of implosion of the kingdom and its oil-dependent economy if it does not diversify in time. There are many nations that could fail and cause little more than a ripple in geopolitical terms, but Saudi has for so long been pivotal in the Middle East that even a severe weakening, let alone failing, is a problem for all. Already Saudi is in the early stages of changing from being a Cold War partner against godless communism into a less-than-trusted partner. This is a mistake and will not help in dealing with the global political presence of Islamic radicalism. It is also a mistake to demand a reformation in Islam or in Saudi, for the reasons stated earlier. If we are to have a global peace in Islam then the solution for the world may be to have a strong Saudi Arabia and one that is not less Islamic, but more Islamic. Saudi is pivotal in Islam due to its role of custodian, and it should use this as a basis to foster more positive diplomatic relations with all nations, not just by being the “American Islam.” What has truly destabilized Saudi’s status in international relations is the tipping toward Iran, which is leading to increasing uncertainty in the kingdom and destabilizing effects. Iran is part of minority Islam, but that doesn’t stop it from seeking to promote itself as the true home of Islam in opposition to Saudi. A major external pressure in recent years has been the nature of the American relationship, which deteriorated under both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama. Pressure has been mounting on the United States to forsake its long relationship in part to force Saudi to change its attitude on human rights violations and gender issues, and in part because it is felt the relationship is losing its benefits. The notions that working together would promote internal change and help in regional affairs have been discredited in many quarters. In remarks at the American University in Cairo made on 20 June 2005, the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice noted that “for 60 years, my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region here in the Middle East – and we achieved neither” (


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Cowan
    • 1
  1. 1.Boston CollegeBostonUSA

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