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Oil for Whom? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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On Sunday, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz ordered oil prices to be slashed by 30%. Two weeks ago, the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called oil-producing companies, and especially the organization of Oil Producing and Exporting Countries (OPEC), to grant oil to the poor at reduced prices. At this point, the difference is clear between someone who wants to score political points through oil, by mentioning the poor whilst forgetting his citizens, and someone who truly seeks to organize the affairs of his country’s citizens without slogans.

Clichés such as oil for the poor and the distribution of wealth are slogans that were raised across the Arab and Muslim worlds a long time ago, especially after Saddam Hussein, who ruled over the land of two rivers (Iraq) and oil fields no less than other countries of the Gulf, invaded Kuwait. The distribution of wealth was used by his supporters as justification.

Of course, there is a difference between empty slogans and those who calmly take decisions that serve their county. Ahmadinejad’s statements two weeks ago were a political sideshow! Reality demonstrates that his country has not contributed to offer support for the development of stability in the region. The Saudi decision, however, was practical and real, benefiting citizens directly and without slogans.

When Saddam Hussein’s regime fell, and despite everything that is said, we saw how the budgets of countries in the region eased and more funds were allocated for development. This would not have been possible if Saddam Hussein were still in power.

It is sad that, in the developed world today, the front pages of newspapers feature news that promote life, such as football and medical or technological developments. In newspapers and news bulletins, we find reports on how Japan has surpassed the United States in teaching Mathematics. On the other hand, in our region, for the last fifty years, we have seen the same headlines, from Palestine and even Lebanon to Iraq. The news is exclusively about fighting and conflict. I know some will say that I am overlooking the role of Israeli and US occupiers, however, my reply to that is what about our never-ending mistakes?

Once, I heard a Saudi official say, if Khomeini’s revolution was not intended for export, and the countries of Greater Syria (Sham), as well as Egypt and Iraq, had given weight to their parliaments and elections in the last 30 years, could we have gone in a different direction? He answered: Of course not! We are part of a constantly changing region. In this upheaval rests danger.

Here we see the difference between a leader who saw that the circumstances were appropriate so he made a decision that benefits his people, which is to reduce the price of oil by 30%, and others who use oil as a slogan and a weapon to enflame the region. How much does Iran spend, from its oil revenues, on what does not benefit the Iranian people? How much wisdom has our region squandered?

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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