What, this picture? It’s almost a cliche, right, more Arab Spring stuff? Yes, except for one thing. This uprising, inspired by the so-called Arab Spring three years ago, and unquenched since then, is happening in Saudi Arabia. The protesters are minority Shia Muslims in Saudi’s Eastern Province, the center of gravity of the country’s oil industry. This picture represents the worst nightmare of the Saudi royal family, and of all industrialized nations. If Saudi Arabia comes unglued, so do we all.
This report and picture appeared on the BBC three months ago. That no one else has reported on the uprising for three years is a testament to the brutal lockdown the Saudi security forces have put on the entire region; no journalists or foreigners in or out, anyone carrying a camera is subject to arrest, and so on. But here’s another question: why has no one reported on this clear and present danger in the three months since the BBC unveiled it (in a documentary shot by a courageous Saudi woman named Safa Al-Ahmad, a native of the Eastern Province)? How is this not news?
Saudi Arabia is beset by many demons right now. Oil production from its legacy fields peaked in 2005, and it is not making any significant new finds. More and more of its oil must go toward fueling its rising population and providing its people with water and electricity. That leaves less and less for export, which is a threat not only to us in the rest of the world, but to Saudi Arabia itself; it uses the income from exports to subsidize the cost of fuel to its people. Fewer exports and more people is a formula for an explosion.
There is no mistaking the fear in the House of Saud over the implications of the toppling of government after government in North Africa and the Middle East by people who are suffering the effects of climate-change-induced famine and peak-oil-induced privations. There is no denying the implications for the world of disruption in Saudi oilfields. Yet here is a picture of the tyrant-eating cancer, metastasized to those very oil fields, and we are not yet terrified?