Saudi Arabia and the U.S. as an example of complex interdependence

Simply put, America is reliant on continued Saudi output of oil and Saudi Arabia is reliant on American dollars. For America, Saudi Arabia is a key regional ally; the Saudis rely on American security and weapons. Decisions made against this interdependence would affect the two countries in ‘costly ways’.

Dhahran, Saudi Arabia

Dhahran, Saudi Arabia (Photo credit: Paul L McCord Jr)

Saudi Arabia is a sovereign state, but is bound in its support of an independent Palestinian state. It retains no diplomatic relations with Israel – America’s other principal ally in the region. It can do little more than make proposals on the matter – even being forced to drop its boycott of Israeli goods.
America is an important supporter of human rights and democracy, but criticisms of Saudi Arabia are rare. This is despite it not only being one of the most repressive and authoritarian regimes in the world, but also intervening in other countries such as Bahrain to control protesters against a similarly authoritarian government.
Multiple channels connect the two countries but mostly through economic and security concerns. Saudi Arabia has, since 2000, spent over $100 million on lobbying groups in the US according to the FARA database. There are also numerous non-state actors such as the US-Saudi Arabian Business Council.
Issues have had varied importance, and though oil has been a dominant force in the relations, security concerns have often been briefly prioritised for both countries. Such examples include the current Syria crisis (where Saudi Arabia supports the Sunni population), the on-going ‘War on Terror’, and Saudi need for American arms and weapons. Worth mentioning too, is the historical presence of US troops within Saudi Arabia.


Gun Deaths? A Loaded Question

As a European, it can be too easy to chide the US for its obsession of guns. The caricature of a gun-toting, murdering, ‘hick’ is one that is all too acceptable in the UK and abroad. Most often accepted as proof of this, is the ratio of gun deaths per capita versus the amount of guns, as shown below.

Gun deaths vs ownership

Gun deaths vs ownership

However, some of the largest amount of gun deaths come from suicides. So what does it look like without that? Gun homicides plotted against gun ownership is shown below.

Gun homicides vs gun ownership in the OECD.

Gun homicides vs gun ownership in the OECD.

The above chart helps calm the debate a bit, at least among OECD countries. The chart below shows a trend in gun homicides, that the most common signifier isn’t actually the rate of gun ownership, but of course gang violence and even wars.

Note: I mainly sit on the fence for this issue, but this is a repost of Mark Reid’s graphs here, which I think are important to the debate http://mark.reid.name/blog/gun-deaths-vs-gun-ownership.html

A lack of recent activity

Explained by a slight work overload. Earlier on this week I was hosting a presidential candidate for the Iranian elections. Currently I’m busy marking essays, some good and some bad.

Here’s what I read when I  had some free time today though:

I don’t expect this dry spell in blog-writing to last, so keep tuned!


Comments & Curios IV

Merkel shepherds the EU away from fiscal cliffs

The last minute negotiations in Washington to avoid a budget shortfall show that short-termism is well grounded in US politics. And by contrast, it shows that despite her controversial handling of the euro crisis, the German chancellor is wise enough to instead push for long-term solutions.

OS – NRC Handelsblad

‘Vintage’ site that tells you what’s happening around the world

It’s hard to keep up on current events, the dominant stories in one country might not even be shown in yours – here’s a little tool to rectify that which seems more useful than the Wiki portal for current events, albeit less aesthetic .

A quick argument on why theories should be simple

When we consider theories, it may be that depicting actors’ behaviors as following rationalist behaviors are deeply false, but nevertheless useful. We shouldn’t be deluded into mistaking assumptions for reality but we should also not forego the power of simplification.

Coup forecasts for 2013

As the title implies, it’s a prediction of coups for 2013. Should be interesting to keep watch.


Obama’s got his second term with a wide enough margin, he’s safe, and maybe it’s time to start looking at ways to innovate. Here’s a personal take on what he should do for the great cities of the US. Whilst a lot of these are projects that can simply be undertaken by local mayors, there needs to be a national political will and movement behind this.


First of all we’ll have the Democrat Party Convention in Charlotte, NC.We’ve already heard from the Republican Party, and now we’ll hear from the incumbents.


Iran’s data on terror ‘so explosive that it will bring down the US government’

The head of the Supreme National Security Council, will release the allegations during an anniversary ceremony of the 1979 US embassy hostage crisis. This follows the announcement by Leader Khamenei calling the US the “greatest terrorist in the world.” Khamenei said at a speech: “We possess 100 pieces of irrefutable evidence that reveal the US role in directing terrorists.” The data is apparently so explosive, that it will topple US government .

In my opinion, whatever it is people really won’t care enough to topple the US government – and that’s an understatement. It would have to be pretty big news if they’re telling the truth (which I doubt), and most importantly it wouldn’t be on a Friday. I think they understand us even less than we understand them.