Political disarray that has engulfed the Middle East is predicted to push the price of oil to a record high in the coming weeks. Nations including Iran and Bahrain are cracking down on opposition groups demanding change amid turmoil that`s toppled leaders in Egypt and Tunisia.
Recent hostility in the Middle East has had a bigger impact on prices for Brent crude. Brent is the standard price for North Sea oil production, and it is used as a reference price for oil produced in other areas, such as Africa and South America. Production interruptions also have helped keep Brent above $100 a barrel since the end of January.
Saudi Arabia is far less vulnerable to democracy movements than other countries in the region, thanks mostly in part to its vast oil wealth, its powerful religious establishment and the popularity of its king. The Saudis tend to see any threat to the conventional order in the region as a gain for their nemesis Iran, and its allies Syria and Hezbollah. They have grown more and more worried that the Obama administration is wandering away from this perspective and supporting movements for change whose result cannot be guaranteed. Those fears were heightened by the crisis in Egypt, where the Saudis felt that Mr. Mubarak should have been allowed to stay on and make a more "dignified" exit.
Still, the Saudis are closely watching American political gestures toward Bahrain. Any hesitation of American support for Bahrain`s Sunni monarchy, analysts say, would provoke a deep sense of betrayal, and could create an unprecedented rift in their partnership. Will the turmoil that has engulfed other Middle Eastern countries strike Saudi Arabia, odds are unlikely. But hey, no one can truly say for sure.
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