For decades the Saudis have used oil to keep things ticking over in the Middle East. Things are changing and Riyadh’s room for manoeuvre is shrinking.
Since the second half of 2014, Saudi Arabia has gradually increased its oil production and caused a steady drop in the price of Brent crude oil from $110 a barrel (€99) to close to just $30 (€27), the lowest price recorded in the last 13 years.
For many months, economists assumed that the monarchy was striving to protect its market share against non-OPEC (the
Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Companies) production and particularly American shale oil.
But those with a deeper understanding of the Middle East know that Saudi decisions are never based on economic considerations alone. The kingdom’s actions are influenced by events in the Arab world, especially the precarious relations between Sunnis and Shiites, and the Saudi tendency to seek control over Arab Gulf countries.