Saudi Arabia

The Desperate Saudi Bid to Prepare the State for All-Out War

| November 17, 2017

Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman knows he has to transform the state into a war machine if the kingdom is to survive the Iranian onslaught. To do that, he has to amass power by removing the system of checks and balances of rival princely factions and tribal affiliations as well as a security system that is weakened by both. The question is whether he will be able to avoid the fate of the Shah, who transformed Iran into a regional power but fell victim to wall-to-wall opposition bred by his concentration of power.

As Saudi Arabia Reels, the Middle East Will Only Get Worse

| November 10, 2017

While the recent wave of dismissals and arrests of members of the Saudi ruling family, senior officials, and prominent businessmen clouds prospects for Prince Muhammad’s economic reform plans, signs of an escalation in Saudi-Iranian tensions bode ill for the rest of the region.

Saudi Crackdown Raises Specter of Wider Dissent

| November 6, 2017

Few noticed a rare protest that took place in Saudi Arabia in late January 2011 as a wave of popular uprisings swept the Middle East and North Africa, toppling the leaders of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen. Yet that protest, as well as criticism of the government’s handling of floods in the Red Sea port of Jeddah in 2009, play an important role in Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman’s extension of his crackdown to members of the ruling family and the military. Prince Muhammad is attempting to stamp out any form of opposition to his mercurial rise, economic and social reform plans, and conduct of the Yemen war.

The Dynamics of Saudi-Russian Relations

| October 22, 2017

The Saudi Arabia-US partnership is a defining pillar of Middle Eastern geopolitics. However, increasing Saudi-Iranian hostility, recent changes inside the Saudi regime, and lingering questions over the consistency of the Trump administration’s support have led Riyadh to diversify its bilateral relationships. King Salman bin Abdulaziz’s historic four-day visit to Moscow in early October must be seen in this context. The Saudi-Russian rapprochement will likely have huge strategic and economic consequences for Middle Eastern geopolitics.

An Eye for an Eye: Iran Promises to Partition Saudi Arabia If Iraq Is Partitioned

| October 6, 2017

Iran is now openly threatening to dismember Saudi Arabia for its support for Kurdish independence and secession from Iraq. This ratcheting up of tensions has implications not only for those two countries but for the region and the world at large. Israel would do well to remember that the Middle East is growing ever more volatile, and the US should sharpen its resolve to contain Iran.

Saudi Women Behind the Wheel: Prince Mohammed’s Litmus Test

| October 4, 2017

Saudi Arabia’s long-awaited lifting of a ban on women’s driving, widely viewed as a symbol of Saudi misogyny, will likely serve as a litmus test for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ability to introduce economic and social reforms despite conservative opposition. It also distracts attention from international criticism of the kingdom’s war in Yemen and charges by human rights groups, as well as some Muslim leaders, that the kingdom fosters sectarianism and prejudice against non-Muslims.

The Hajj and the Struggle for Islamic Hegemony

The ethnic Sunni-Shiite rift parallels the Saudi-Iranian political rift, the Wahhabi-Muslim Brotherhood ideological rift, and the historic rift between Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Tensions over Islamic hegemony arising from these rifts are likely to come to a boil at the 2017 Hajj.kecar

Suggestion to the New Saudi Crown Prince

| August 25, 2017

It is unlikely that the new heir to the Saudi throne, Prince Mohammed bin Salman – who will be the first of King ibn Saud’s grandchildren to come to power – will stop the private Saudi program of promoting Salafism. Salafism is the radical form of Islam practiced by the Saudis, and their export of their beliefs has been a major cause of the Muslim world’s move towards radicalism over the last nearly 40 years. But the Saudi leadership might respond to a US suggestion that they begin to omit Indonesia and India from their program. This would protect a critical quarter of the world’s Muslim population from moving from moderate to radical Islam.

A New “Arab Spring” in the Persian Gulf?

| July 13, 2017

The winds of war blowing between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, as well as Iranian subversion, are destabilizing the Persian Gulf principalities. To make matters worse, the economic situation, which has worsened in recent years because of ill-advised decisions, is stoking fears of popular uprisings and widespread disturbances. These internal crises could lead to a new “Arab Spring” in which some of the Gulf monarchies might fall. The main winner would be Tehran, for which the current crisis, along with the boycott imposed on Qatar, has opened a path to a takeover of Bahrain – and Iran has already, in effect, taken over Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut, and Sana’a.

A Young, Determined Saudi Heir

The Saudi royal family is undergoing a period of change, a process that gathered steam after the recent visit by US President Donald Trump. The visit demonstrated to the Saudis that they have the support of the US, something they did not get from the last president. The naming of the king’s son as the new heir to the throne represents both the reform process itself and its growing momentum.