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Protests In Saudi Arabia Raise Fears Over Oil Prices

Mary Slosson |
March 6, 2011 | 8:42 p.m. PST

Executive Producer

All eyes are on Saudi Arabia as the country ramps up for protests this Friday that have stock markets and politicians worldwide concerned over oil prices.

Stock markets have already been affected by higher oil prices due to the unrest in the Middle East -- particularly in Libya, Africa's biggest oil-producing nation -- and the United States is even considering tapping into strategic oil reserves to combat rising oil prices.

"We are looking at the options. The issue of the reserves is one we are considering," said President Obama's Chief of Staff, Bill Daley.  "All matters have to be on the table."

The Wall Street Journal warns that:

Intensified fighting in Libya over the weekend raised the chance that the country will descend into civil war and signs of political unrest in other Middle East and North African nations such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Yemen, Oman and Algeria sent oil prices higher, threatening economic growth across the globe.

But the real fear is over unrest in Saudi Arabia, a key ally of the United States and a giant in terms of oil production.  Anti-government protesters are planning a "Day of Rage" for Friday, and the state has already mobilized 10,000 troops to quell any dissent. 

The protests are scheduled for March 11, and have been dubbed the "March 11 Revolution of Longing" by a Facebook group helping to organize opposition protests.

Should there be violence used, the United States will be in an awkward diplomatic position.

As Robert Fisk of The Independent writes:

If the Saudi royal family decides to use maximum violence against demonstrators, US President Barack Obama will be confronted by one of the most sensitive Middle East decisions of his administration. In Egypt, he only supported the demonstrators after the police used unrestrained firepower against protesters. But in Saudi Arabia – supposedly a "key ally" of the US and one of the world's principal oil producers – he will be loath to protect the innocent.

With oil prices touching $120 a barrel and the Libyan debacle lowering its production by up to 75 per cent, the serious economic – and moral, should this interest the Western powers – question, is how long the "civilised world" can go on supporting the nation whose citizens made up almost all of the suicide killers of 9/11?

Serious unrest in Saudi Arabia and potential civil war in Libya could require serious policy changes on the part of the United States:

Oil prices have already risen because of the crisis in Libya. Should Saudi Arabia's protests disrupt oil supplies even further, there may be more drastic measures needed to control the price climb in the United States.

The stability of the current energy markets depends on the stability of oil-producing giants like Libya and Saudi Arabia.  The real bind for countries like the United States which are dependent on oil comes when stated diplomatic objectives like democracy in the Middle East would require instability and protest to achieve.  The protests in Saudi Arabia on Friday will prove an interesting test of that clash of principles.

Reach Executive Producer Mary Slosson here.  Follow her on Twitter @maryslosson.



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