Riyadh's Miscalculation

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It is difficult to imagine the turmoil that the House of Saud must have been enduring since the price of oil began its precipitous and deep decline in the latter half of 2014.  Since then, not only has the value of the Kingdom’s precious and only significant natural resource declined to levels less than half of what it was a year ago, but its role as the world’s swing producer of oil has been effectively usurped by the United States and its resource revolution.  Moreover, to add insult to injury, Saudi Arabia faces unprecedented challenges from its rival for supremacy in the Muslim world, Iran; and its putative ally, the United States, is seemingly about to further empower Iran to continue to make significant mischief in the region. 

The death of King Abdullah in January only made matters worse, at least in the short run.  The new King, Salman, must have sensed the need for an overhaul.  Almost immediately after assuming the throne, he took the drastic and virtually unprecedented step of altering the pattern of succession to the throne and reassigning responsibilities for domestic and foreign security.  These actions tell us King Salman is convinced things have to change if the Saudis are to restore their role in the region and in the world oil markets.  The steps he took were not just for the sake of change.  He clearly perceived an existential threat the way events were headed and concluded he had to take action to restore competency to the government and to send a message to the world.           

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