Sorry to return to my old Middle Eastern stamping grounds, but further developments in the region this week deserve note. Last Friday, the public flogging in Jeddah of blogger Raif Badawi attracted deserved worldwide condemnation. Badawi received 50 strokes of the cane, the first weekly instalment of 1,000 lashes to be delivered along with a 10-year prison sentence for ‘insulting Islam’.
The financial debacle that has befallen Russia as the price of Brent crude dropped 50 per cent in the last four months has overshadowed the one that potentially awaits the U.S. shale industry in 2015. It’s time to heed it, because Saudi Arabia and other major Middle Eastern oil producers are unlikely to blink and cut output, and the price is now approaching a level where U.S. production will begin shutting down.
Op-ed: As the Gulf states are left with no money to spend and are experiencing internal shocks, the era of destructive Arab power is coming to an end; the Israeli mind and innovation era, on the other hand, is just beginning.
In 1970, with British help and support, Qaboos bin Sa‘id overthrew his father and took the reins of powers in the Sultanate of Oman. Sultan Qaboos was an enlightened monarch, and firmly guided the xenophobic and isolationist state back into the modern world. Oman has since been a model of neutrality and tolerance, often acting as a bridge between regional adversaries (it is no coincidence that Oman served as the initial go-between for U.S.-Iran talks). Nevertheless, when push came to shove, Oman has done what is needed to combat terrorism. U.S. aircraft based in Oman launched some of the initial airstrikes against the Taliban during Operation Enduring Freedom.