The process of balancing and satisfying Saudi royal factions depends on patience and conservatism within royal circles. It also requires quiet in the streets of Riyadh and Jedda. Thus far, there are no signs of the so-called “Arab Spring” spreading to Saudi Arabia.
King Abdullah says that women will be appointed to the Consultative Council and be allowed to vote and run for municipal councils. Is this a significant advancement for Saudi women’s rights, or just another instance of the kingdom’s “two steps forward, one step back” reform policy?
The Saudis are all bark and no bite. Despite occasional public “outrage” from Saudi officials about US policy regarding the Arab unrest, Israel, Iraq, Iran, or Afghanistan, Riyadh and Washington are still very distant from the parting of ways threatened by some Saudi officials.
For the rulers of Riyadh, the primary result of the “Arab Spring” has been a shaking of the strategic foundation and alignments that have shaped Saudi regional policy since the 1979 Iranian Revolution.
While unrest has rattled the Middle East in recent months, oil wealth and tradition have kept things quiet in Saudi Arabia.
Recently, the Saudi Royals have moved to control the issuance of fatwas(religious edicts), restricting them to those appointed by the family as members of the Council of Senior Ulama; but the proliferation of media makes such control difficult.