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Saudis struggle with supremacy crisis


Saudis struggle with supremacy crisis


Laurence Alexandrowicz, euronews: “Gilles Kepel, as you’re an expert on Islam and the Arab world, please give us your insight on the crisis between Saudi Arabia and Iran.”

Gilles Kepel, author of ‘Terreur dans l’Hexagone, genèse du jihad français’: “Well, 47 executions in Saoudi Arabia is a lot; 43 of those executed were Sunni radical opponents linked either to al Qaeda or to ISIL, Daesh, which of course because of their tribal links are far more dangerous for Saudi power than the Shiite minority is. To help make the execution of all those Sunni radicals more acceptable, somewhat to smooth things over, the Saudi government made sure that only a few Shiites were executed. There’s the impression that Saudi Arabia is sort of caught between a rock and a hard place. There is the situation inside the country and the obligation to fight Sunni Islamist extremism, which some Saudi businessmen have financed, the same who financed al Qaeda and Daesh and who are turning against them today. At the same time they are facing Iran, which wants a dominant position in the Gulf. Add to this the price of oil now below 40 dollars a barrel, which seriously throws the Saudi budget off balance. All that compounds the demands on them, especially among all the Saudis who have been kept well clear of the succession of power the kingdom has just been through.”

euronews: “Can the oil price problem create a backlash for the rest of the world, economically?”

Kepel: “The Saudis’ problem is that they triggered the fall in the price of oil by raising production. Why? Because they wanted to make the US back down, because the American marketing of shale oil today is a threat to Saudi supremacy, the supremacy of Middle Eastern oil. With prices that low, US shale producers couldn’t compete, and so the Saudis can come out on top of the market. The problem is the time this takes. It could be months, it could be years before this strategy pays off, and in the meantime the kingdom will have to face terrible financial, political and social difficulties.”

euronews: “We know that the two regional powers are also clashing with each other, indirectly, in Syria and Yemen. What consequences will there be from those two wars?”

Kepel: “Several powers are very concerned about that. Russia, which is an oil monarchy today… The fall in oil price is a major worry for the foreign minister Sergei Lavrov. He has offered to mediate between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which is extraordinary in itself. It means that the Americans can’t do it. That also is a way to show that President Obama’s United States is in a way out of the race in the Middle East region.”

euronews: “…leaving the door to Daesh wide open?”

Kepel: “The Saudi-Iranian diplomatic crisis concerns both countries, but also the region, since a crisis this intense could make it impossible for the coalition against Daesh to work.”

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