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A "Feudal" Dynasty in Modern Times

As the Ottoman Empire dissolved during World War II, Ibn Saud of the House of Saud worked quickly to consolidate his family's power over the Arabian Peninsula. Ibn was a despot of the first order who thought nothing of beating servants and ordering public amputations and beheadings. He was aided materially by the British who were interested in undercutting the Ottomans.

Ibn Saud gave birth to a modern dynasty and contributed new members by his hundred-odd wives. Today there are, depending on the source, some 3000-4000 or 7,000 princes in the House of Saud with eight or ten new ones born each week. Women and girls do not count so there are no matching princesses. (Saudi women are among the most discriminated against on earth.)

Ibn Saud was also a Sunni of the Wahhabi sect representing an extreme interpretation of the Qur'an and Hadith. Wahhabism soon became the state religion and became just as oppressive as the Taliban. Since WW II especially, Wahhabi Mullahs began preaching against Western thought and influence, which was exported to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The House of Saud was long ruled by King Faud. His brother, Crown Prince Abdullah, ascended to the throne upon Faud's death. Abdullah is now well over 70.

The Saud dynasty is supported by oil revenues, which have increased even as working-class wages have shrunk by half. Each Prince is awarded some $500,000 annually for expenses. The Saud family receives some two-three billion dollars annually, even as the state budget runs annual deficits. This is aside from diversions of state funds that they have been accused of. The contrast between rich and poor in this two-tier society is extreme indeed.

At the same time, aside from the military, the Saud Dynasty has done little to modernize Saudi Arabia. Saudi women remain terribly oppressed (see Women and also Wahhabism.

Taken together, these features have led some commentators to predict the end of the dynasty is near. That may happen. Per capita income has fallen for over a decade as the national debt ballooned.

The times have changed but the Saudi culture has not. Despite much official ballyhoo about lack of democracy and human rights, the House of Saud is commended as a bulwark of regional stability by many.

The reason for the Western response are clear enough - oil. Saudi Arabia sits on 25 per cent of the world's known oil reserves and plays a moderating role in OPEC by manipulating supply to keep prices down, good for the Plutocrats. The West's addiction to oil makes the House of Saud subject to only mild tut-tutting on questions of human rights.

The Wahhabis operate openly and in the background. Openly in their social policing role, in the background in their terror role which is not at all self consistent among princes. Nevertheless, Suadi Arabia is subject to attacks by al Qa'ida.

Publisher's comment:

While American addiction to Burmese heroin or Colombian cocaine is responded to as national disasters, our addiction to 'black gold' is never questioned.


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