Saudi Arabia was in the spotlight this week, after a string of arrests on corruption allegations and muscle flexing in the direction of Iran. The so-called anti-corruption sweep toppled former and current ministers and several members of the Saudi royal family, sparking worry about a possible destabilization in OPEC’s largest oil producer.
It has emerged in the meantime, however, that the operation might be primarily focused on money-gathering: to date, some $800 billion in assets of the people arrested have been frozen by the government and some observers have suggested the money will become state property, to go into propping up the government coffers.
At the same time, Saudi Arabia is baring its teeth at Iran, accusing it of a direct military attack after earlier this week the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen fired a missile at Riyadh, which the Saudi anti-missile system intercepted. The White House is backing the Saudis in their claims against Iran. Tehran has said the missile attack came in response to Saudi intervention in Yemen. This intervention, initiated two years ago, is a heavy load on Crown Prince Mohammed.
All these events have been bullish for oil prices but the latest from Saudi Arabia may have an opposite effect. Satellite imaging services provider Orbital Insights has released data suggesting Saudi Arabia has been lying about the state of its crude oil inventories. While Riyadh has been reporting a decline in these since early 2016,…