The recent killing of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi dissident and journalist for The Washington Post has shocked and appalled the international community. With this egregious act reigniting the debate over the ‘West’s’ support of the draconian state.
With further atrocities claimed by the Greens Leader Richard DiNatalie stating “At least 10,000 Yemenis have been killed, many going about their business – attending weddings, children on their way to school, doing their groceries … 13 million people are being deliberately starved as a weapon on war.”
However when speaking to many Australian’s about the current state of affairs in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East in general, the normal response is one of apathy to a region of the world far removed from their own.
Whilst many are aware the support given by the Australian Government to the House of Saud through the direct sale of military hardware. Many would not be aware of the huge investments currently being made by Saudi Arabia and fellow Gulf states to some of Australia’s closest neighbours.
With the most reported investment made by Saudi Arabia of $1 Billion into the South East Asian ride-sharing juggernaut, Grab. Commonly referred to as the Uber of South East Asia, a comment made even more true after Uber actually sold their Asian arm to the company for a reported $6 Billion after struggling to find traction in the market.
A less reported investment worth nearly $10 Billion, was signed this year by Saudi Arabia’s national oil company into setting up an oil refinery in Malaysia’s Pengerang Integrated Petroleum Complex. A deal that ex-Prime Minister Najib Razak said was the single largest investment in the project led by state-run oil company Petronas.
However it is not just economical investment, but too, educational and cultural opportunities given by the Saudi King in both the Muslim majority countries of Malaysia and Indonesia that should not be underestimated. With reports stating that almost 2,000 Saudi students studying in Malaysia and while in Indonesia, the Kingdom has built over 150 mosques, and established a free university in Jakarta that educates 3,500 students each year.
Official analysts believe the Saudi Governments increased investment in Malaysia and Indonesia stems from ensuring customers of its lucrative oil business are maintained and further investment is ensured through mutual dependence. However, others are less convinced of an economic reason, with a thought their Kingdom is placing their stamp through ideological grounds.
With investments extending the Islamic influence filling the void of a growing concern in some quarters over the resultant increase in Wahhabism in South East Asia, at a time when the region is going through what some have termed an Islamic revival.
Returning to Jamal Khashoggi and the indifference by Australians to accept the relevance of his killing. It make take another killing of an innocent journalist closer to home to fully appreciate the vortex created by Americas withdrawal in our region and the fighting powers to fill it.