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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Issue 1818

Change in Saudi Arabia
Introduction
Introduction

Those Exceptional Saudis

by Charles Hillvia The Caravan
Tuesday, June 19, 2018

“Exceptionalism” was long claimed for America, at least until a president informed us that every nation considers itself exceptional. However that may be, one place now merits that description: The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where past, present, and future are entangled as nowhere else; a family, a state, a religion, and an empire variously maneuver for prominence depending on the lens through which the outside world views them. Which is it? What is Saudi Arabia? And how much can it move the political markets of world affairs?

Featured Analysis
Featured Analysis

Saudi Arabia’s Reforms And The United States

by Bernard Haykelvia The Caravan
Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The reign of King Salman of Saudi Arabia (since January 2015) represents a significant watershed in the history of the kingdom’s system of governance as well as in its domestic and foreign policies. These changes reflect the priorities of the king, who is an absolute monarch. The first, and most important, of these is the handing over of de facto rule to a prince of the younger generation: the king’s 32-year-old son and Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman (known in the West by his acronym MBS), who will become the reigning monarch upon his father’s passing.

Featured Analysis

Bin Salman And The Promise (Or Peril) Of Reform

by Nadav Saminvia The Caravan
Tuesday, June 19, 2018

A mass drugging is how one young Saudi man in Riyadh described to me Mohammad Bin Salman’s Vision 2030, eight months after its ostentatious launch in April 2016.  Smoke and mirrors, he meant.  Since then, the energetic and youthful Saudi crown prince has surprised his critics by upending a number of his country’s political, economic, and cultural norms.  But can he safely deliver more change to an already rapidly changing society?  How much tinkering can one do with a fragile polity before it cracks under the pressure?

Featured Analysis

Saudi Reform And Security Through A Gulf Lens

by Lori Plotkin Boghardtvia The Caravan
Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The arrest of several of the kingdom’s most prominent women’s rights activists six weeks before the date when women would be allowed to drive came as a shock to everyone.  After news of the detentions spread through informal channels, an official announcement on May 19 referred ambiguously to the detention of individuals seeking “to undermine the security and stability of the kingdom” and erode “national unity” through various activities.  Local news outlets quickly vilified the activists – some well-known abroad as peaceful advocates – and branded them “traitors.” 

Featured Analysis

Social Reform In The Kingdom: Between “Westernizers” And “Guardians Of Virtue”

by Cole Bunzelvia The Caravan
Tuesday, June 19, 2018

“These astonishing things that have been happening in the Land of the Two Holy Places … if King Abd al-Aziz were to come out of his grave and witness them, he would not believe that this is his kingdom that he worked so hard to establish and unite.” So lamented Abd al-Muhsin al-‘Abbad, an outspoken Wahhabi cleric, in a late 2017 assessment of the social reforms being implemented in Saudi Arabia. The king in question was the founder of the modern realm, Abd al-Aziz ibn Sa‘ud (d. 1953), who is also the father of the present king, Salman, and grandfather of the new crown prince, Muhammad bin Salman (MbS).

Featured Analysis

Saudi Arabia And The Electric Car Revolution

by Afshin Molavivia The Caravan
Tuesday, June 19, 2018

“Everyone has a plan,” the great American boxer Mike Tyson once quipped, “that is, until you get punched in the face.” Saudi Arabia, as the world knows by now, has a plan. In fact, the Saudi Vision 2030, unveiled in dramatic fashion in April 2016 with a roll-out similar to the launch of a new iPhone, has become one of the most well-known national transformation plans in the world. It has become almost a by-word for the changes dawning in the Kingdom, and the calling card for the reformist credentials of the Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.

Featured Analysis

Saudi Arabia, The United States And The Anti-Iran Front In The Middle East

by F. Gregory Gause, IIIvia The Caravan
Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Though he fancies unpredictability a useful negotiating tool, President Trump has been remarkably consistent about the Middle East. He campaigned against the Iran nuclear deal and in May 2018 withdrew the United States from it. He promised, as most presidential candidates have done, to move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Unlike any other successful candidate, he actually did it, also in May 2018.

Featured Analysis

Saudi Reform: Essential but Perilous

by Ali Shihabivia The Caravan
Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Saudi Arabia is undergoing a perilous, but essential transformation. Those wishing to safeguard one of the last bastions of Middle East stability should support Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s (MBS) dramatic socioeconomic reforms and also appreciate the challenges, resistance, and limitations amid which he is forced to operate. As rapid reform risks destabilizing the kingdom’s broad and deeply divided political base, rule by consensus will not work. Only a strong hand can balance Saudi Arabia’s competing constituencies.

Featured Analysis

Saudi Arabia at a Crossroads

by Elham Maneavia The Caravan
Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Saudi Arabia, a kingdom grounded in a dynastic religious alliance, stands at a crossroads. Some observers and journalists, both Western and Arab, eyeing the new assertive leadership of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (henceforth MbS) and his promised economic and social reforms, have rushed to declare him a ‘reformer’.

Featured Analysis

Saudi Arabia Or Iran In US Strategy

by Russell A. Bermanvia The Caravan
Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Effective US policy toward Saudi Arabia requires familiarity with the intricacies of its history and society, of course. The legacies of the foundation of the state, the traditional collaboration of political and religious leadership and the burdensome privileges of the extended royal family still weigh on the Saudi present, even as new circumstances develop, especially the ambitions of the young generation, eager for the reforms promised by the bold leadership of the Crown Prince.

E.g., 6 / 24 / 2018
E.g., 6 / 24 / 2018
Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Issue 1714

Social Media in the Middle East
Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Issue 1713

Egypt: Past and Present Keystone of the Arab-Islamic World
Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Issue 1612

Strategic Considerations in the Greater Middle East
Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Issue 1611

How should Europe respond to Islamism? What are the consequences of the flood refugees? What strategy should America pursue in the face of the European crisis?

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The Caravan: Change In Saudi Arabia

via The Caravan
Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Issue 1818 of The Caravan is now available online. The journal is a periodic symposium on the contemporary dilemmas of the Greater Middle East.

Featured Analysis

Six Components Of A Syria Strategy

by Karim Sadjadpour, Emile Hokayemvia The Caravan
Tuesday, March 20, 2018

US policy toward Syria has been debilitated by an irresolvable conundrum. Empirical research suggests most civil wars are concluded by military victories, not political settlements. Yet in the war between the murderous regime of Bashar Assad—backed by Russia and Iran—and fractured Islamist rebels, the United States does not want either side to prevail. 

Featured Analysis

US Military In Syria Must Rely On Political Determination And A Marshall Plan

by Fabrice Balanche via The Caravan
Tuesday, March 20, 2018

In January 2018, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson described American strategy in Syria as including maintaining a troop presence in the region until at least 2021 while building a Kurdish-Arab force of 30,000 men, both with the ultimate objective of blocking Iranian influence. As laudable as that goal is, achieving it will require addressing a complex nexus of interrelated issues.

Featured Analysis

The Syrian Great Game

by Reuel Marc Gerechtvia The Caravan
Tuesday, March 20, 2018

By definition “great games” are complicated with lots of moving parts.  Battles on the ground, intense, myriad, and sometimes fratricidal, always connect, however indirectly, to the larger collision of great powers.  In Syria, the tug-of-war is a lopsided affair, where Iran, Russia, and the Alawite regime of Bashar al-Assad are invested in winning.  The opposing side—Syrian Arab Sunnis, Sunni Gulf Arabs, Israel, the United States, and Turkey—is barely an entente.

Featured Analysis

The Descent Of Syria Into The Abyss

by Samuel Tadrosvia The Caravan
Tuesday, March 20, 2018

“Greetings, softer than the breeze of Barada …. I send my tears, which will never dry, O Damascus.” The opening line of Ahmed Shawqi’s famous poem was written as news of the Syrian defeat by the French in 1920 reached Egypt. Less than two years earlier, Faisal I had entered Damascus and raised the flag of Arab nationalism. The jubilation was felt across the Levant. 

Featured Analysis

America And Syria: Life After Hegemony

by Camille Pecastaingvia The Caravan
Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The 24-hour news cycle has offered a sequential, fragmented vision of the Syrian conflict. A chemical attack here, a temporary cease fire there; a wave of hopeless refugees, a gruesome terrorist attack; the fall of a besieged city, yet another round of negotiations. Caught in the fractional details, few looked at the bigger picture of how the position of influence the US had secured in the Middle East from the mid-1970s unraveled. 

Featured Analysis

The Syrian Crisis: Strategic Challenges For The United States

by Itamar Rabinovichvia The Caravan
Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Syrian crisis, which since 2011 has been the focal issue in the Middle East, has now entered a new phase, confronting the United States with fresh challenges. From the early stages of its evolution, the Syrian crisis has unfolded on three levels: domestic, regional and international. The Assad regime's success in capturing Aleppo in late 2016 marked a turning point in the war's domestic dimension. 

Featured Analysis

Why Offense Is The Best Defense Against Russia And Iran In Syria

by Tony Badranvia The Caravan
Tuesday, March 20, 2018

In January, the Trump administration unveiled its strategy for Syria. In an address at the Hoover Institution, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson laid out five key objectives, in the process, made clear that the top priority was containing Iran.  The US, he said, would deny Iran the “arch” it is building from Tehran to the Mediterranean, and it would prevent Iran from using Syria as a springboard from which to threaten neighboring countries.

Featured Analysis

The Syrian Rebellion And Its International Resonance

by Russell A. Bermanvia The Caravan
Tuesday, March 20, 2018

With all the optimism of the Arab Spring, the Syrian rebellion began with the belief that the people of Syria deserve better than the cruelty meted out by Assad family rule. That aspiration alone ought to be sufficient grounds to stand with the democratic forces pursuing self-determination. Yet the United States has been hesitating, a legacy of the Obama administration’s preference for tyranny in Tehran over freedom in Damascus. 

Introduction

Syria: Dante's Earthly Circle Of Hell

by Charles Hillvia The Caravan
Tuesday, March 20, 2018

On Time magazine’s cover in 1947 was Arnold Toynbee, the then world’s most renowned scholar, author of the monumental ten-volume, A Study of History, praised for “Taking all the knowable human past as his province, he has found rhythms and patterns which any less panoramic view could scarcely have detected.”

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The Caravan is envisaged as a periodic symposium on the contemporary dilemmas of the Greater Middle East. It will be a free and candid exchange of opinions. We shall not lack for topics of debate, for that arc of geography has contentions aplenty. It is our intention to come back with urgent topics that engage us. Caravans are full of life and animated companionship. Hence the name we chose for this endeavor.

We will draw on the membership of Hoover's Herbert and Jane Dwight Working Group on Islamism and the International Order, and on colleagues elsewhere who work that same political and cultural landscape. Russell Berman and Charlie Hill cochair the project from which this effort originates.