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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.

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Featured Analysis

Saudi Arabia Is The Middle East’s Biggest Danger

by Toby C. Jonesvia The Caravan
Thursday, February 18, 2016

Over the last decade, Saudi Arabia has emerged as the Middle East’s most assertive power. Stirred to action by the fall of Saddam Hussein, the rise of Iran, and deeply unsettled by the Arab uprisings, the kingdom has taken on an increasingly interventionist role.

Featured Analysis

A Perfect Storm In Saudi Arabia

by Abbas Milanivia The Caravan
Wednesday, February 17, 2016

A perfect storm is brewing for Saudi Arabia. Ominous clouds are gathering on the country’s domestic, regional and global horizons. Virtually every once-reliable pillar of the kingdom’s stability is facing daunting challenges.

Featured Analysis

The Reality Of Riyadh

by Simon Hendersonvia The Caravan
Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Saudi Arabia’s strategic vision is, to put it bluntly, whatever is best for the ruling House of Saud.  Discerning that vision, especially at times of strain and possibly change, has always been a challenge, given the opaqueness of the royal family and its public preference for platitudes. 

Featured Analysis

The Saudi Great Game Gone Awry

by Reuel Marc Gerechtvia The Caravan
Friday, February 12, 2016

Since the 1979 revolution in Iran, the defining religious competition in the Middle East has been between Sunni Saudi Arabia and the Shi'ite Islamic Republic.  That clash was not initially sectarian. 

Featured Analysis

Saudi Foreign Policy: A State of Flux

by Jane Kinninmontvia The Caravan
Thursday, February 11, 2016

The accession of King Salman a year ago and the decision to lead a military intervention in Yemen mark a new phase for Saudi foreign policy. That does not mean that there is a new foreign policy doctrine or strategy.

Featured Analysis

The Shift In Saudi Foreign Policy

by David Schenkervia The Caravan
Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The tight-lipped family oligarchy in Saudi Arabia headed by a geriatric and purportedly infirm monarch has no penchant for transparency. Despite the opacity, the transition from King Abdullah to King Salman has been accompanied by a perceptible shift in Saudi foreign policy.

Introduction

The Shifting Saudi Strategy

by Hoover Institutionvia The Caravan
Tuesday, February 9, 2016

America has been in Arabia for well over six decades, yet the American access to the inner workings of the Saudi world has been limited at best.  There is an opaqueness to the Saudi realm, and that ambivalence has run through its tangled relationship with its American protector.

Featured Analysis

Saudi Strategy And Ours

by Russell A. Bermanvia The Caravan
Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Saudi strategy is a response to its single largest challenge, the rise of Iranian power. As Iran gains greater access to resources and international influence, Riyadh fears that Tehran will project its power throughout the region in order to further its anti-Saudi program.

Featured Analysis

Beyond The Oval Office: Filling In The Blanks Of U.S. Strategy Against The Islamic State

by Robert Satloffvia The Caravan
Friday, December 11, 2015

For a no-drama presidency, there was drama wrapped in urgency inside spectacle when President Obama delivered an Oval Office address to the nation – only his third in seven years – to confirm that the San Bernardino mass murders were, in fact, a terrorist act linked, if only by inspiration and allegiance, to the Islamic State.

Featured Analysis

Meeting The ISIS Challenge

by Kori Schakevia The Caravan
Thursday, December 10, 2015

President Obama raises an interesting and important challenge for those of us who believe his approach to the threat of ISIS is misguided: develop a better strategy.  Any successful strategy requires three elements: a defined political end state, a prescribed series of actions to attain the end state, and means commensurate with your aims.  President Obama’s strategy fails all three of those tests. 

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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.