Saudi Arabia is a kingdom built on sand and on oil. Set up in 1932, it struck paydirt in 1937 when oil was discovered in 1937. Since then, the West has been addicted to cheap Saudi oil. The pact between the Saudi royal family and the West has been simple: keep providing the oil and we'll make sure you stay in power. On this basis, the royal family has grown rich beyond anyone's wildest dreams and, increasingly, corrupt and decadent beyond anyone's imagining. Saudi Arabia is a country with the trappings of a modern, technological society; but at heart it's a brutal feudal police state. But with the growth of Islamic fundamentalism, the old alliance is less than secure: the growth of the Wahhabi movement threatens not only the stability of the House of Saud, but also the continuing supply of oil to the West. "The House of Saud" is faced with a dilemma - how to stay in power and to satisfy the demands of two opposed parties. Robert Baer's new book makes for sobering reading - particularly at a time when the West and the Middle East seem set to face off against each other in the near future.
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