To save its economy, Saudi should… invade Qatar

El Sharara oil field, Libya
El Sharara oil field, Libya – by Javier Blas, Creative Commons

Article en français : Pour sauver son économie, Riyad devrait… envahir le Qatar

Saudi Arabia and Qatar are at odds with eachother. Last spring, a diplomatic crisis erupted as Riyad withdrew its embassador from Doha and told the little peninsula to drop its support for the Muslim Brotherhood (enemies of the Saudis) and to shut down or tone down Al Jazeera. The kingdom threatened its neighbour with sea blockade if it did not comply (by the way, that would amount to an invasion). But an Islamist brotherhood and a TV channel may not be the only reasons for the diplomatic turmoil between the Wahhabi kingdom and the Forgotten land of God.

The Saudi economy relies heavily on oil. At first, when drilling into an oil reservoir, the pressure inside is enough to draw the precious liquid to the surface. But as stocks diminish, pressure diminshes too and eventually it’s not enough anymore. One must inject natural gas to push the oil and collect it. The quantity of gas required is so large that importing it is not economical; it must be extracted in the country, near the oil wells. Most oil-producing countries also happen to own the required gas fields. Saudis now regret to have burnt the gas seeping from the oil wells instead of reusing it. Prospections in the Empty Quarter, in the south-eastern desert, did not allow to discover any sizeable gas field. Even if there were indeed gas fields there, they would be too far away from the oil wells (in the Dammam region, on the Persian Gulf) to be economical. If Riyad doesn’t quickly find gas near its oil fields, the country won’t be able to extract oil anymore and its economy will collapse.

Near the Saudi oil fields lies Qatar, the third biggest gas exporter in the world. Alongside with Iran, it owns a large part of the North Field / South Pars, the largest gas field on the planet. The emirate stands on a peninsula smaller than Wales, virtually entirely desertic, and poorly defended if it wasn’t for the American base of Al-Udeid – it’s the largest in the region.

Finally, Vladimir Putin showed a few months ago that you can invade the little nearby peninsula if you wish to. In his case it was Crimea. Saudi Arabia could follow his exemple and wish to invade its very own little nearby peninsula.

Counter-argument: Washington has previously been allied with both the emirate and the Wahhabi kingdom, but its relationships with the latter have decayed recently. If the Saudi army invaded Qatar, the Americans would probably retaliate. Moreover, they own a large military base on the small peninsula.

Source: « Saudi Arabia on the Edge » by Thomas W. Lippman, pp. 58-60

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