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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

From The Mahdi To ISIS

by Samuel Tadrosvia The Caravan
Wednesday, December 9, 2015

In 1881, an obscure local religious leader in Sudan by the name of Mohamed Ahmed declared himself the long awaited Mahdi (divinely guided one). The claim was ridiculous at best, as established religious leaders were quick to proclaim. The prophecies of the coming of the Mahdi, while open to interpretation, clearly did not point to Mohamed Ahmed.

Featured Analysis

ISIS: Making Autocracy Look Good

by Camille Pecastaingvia The Caravan
Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The November attacks in Paris claimed by ISIS came from the convergence of two forces. One is Jihadism, a global and multifaceted socio-behavioral phenomenon. The other is ISIS, an organization that operates in the Levant and Mesopotamia. ISIS can occasionally project itself beyond its base by leveraging the Jihadist phenomenon, as it did in Tunisia, Egypt, or now France. But despite the global noise, ISIS should be read in its regional context.

Featured Analysis

"Fighting" The Islamic State

by Reuel Marc Gerechtvia The Caravan
Monday, December 7, 2015

Can the United States stop the Syrian refugee crisis and destroy the Islamic State without sending tens of thousands of soldiers into Syria and Iraq? Hillary Clinton and the Republican presidential candidates—with the notable exception of Senator Lindsey Graham—have so far studiously avoided describing how their battle plans would seriously differ from Barack Obama's.  

Featured Analysis

How To Prevail: Do What The West Does Best And Turn Asymmetrical Warfare Against Terror International

by Josef Joffevia The Caravan
Friday, December 4, 2015

A word of comfort first: Terror, no matter how spectacular, cannot score strategic victories against the West. “Strategic failure” means ISIS cannot break a nation-state’s will, nor render it defenseless the way Hitler’s armies subjugated France and Poland in a matter of weeks.

Featured Analysis

Notes On Methodology In The Study Of Jihad

by Nibras Kazimivia The Caravan
Thursday, December 3, 2015

Three Western academic disciplines have risen to the challenge of interpreting the jihadist enemy: political science, military science and history. It would seem natural for political and military scientists to discern form and pattern in the revolutionary movement that is seizing many of the headlines of the 21st century. On the other hand, historians would be ill at ease explaining the significance of current events and discerning trends within them...

Featured Analysis

Dealing With Daesh: Stay The Course

by Daniel Kurtzervia The Caravan
Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Daesh or ISIS does not represent an existential threat to any state except Syria and Iraq.  It occupies and controls ungoverned space in the region between Iraq and Syria and in parts of northern Africa; and its self-proclaimed Caliphate has benefited from the seizure of some income producing assets in these areas. 

Featured Analysis

After Paris Is Before Paris: ISIS And Strategy

by Russell A. Bermanvia The Caravan
Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The attacks in Paris were hardly necessary to demonstrate the brutality of ISIS. Its threat to regional stability in the Middle East has long been in evidence, and now we know that its terror can reach into Western capitals. But ISIS is hardly the only challenge to American power and the international order.

Introduction

The US And The ISIS Challenge

by Hoover Institutionvia The Caravan
Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Caravan was conceived as a vehicle for thoughtful and elevated discourse on the Middle East, especially the dangers that Islamism poses to the international order. This time we turn to the terrorist attacks in Paris which demonstrated the capacity of ISIS to cause devastation in Western capitals, even as it remains a formidable force in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East.

Featured Analysis

The Obama Declaration

by Charles Hillvia The Caravan
Tuesday, October 20, 2015

World-historical changes are not conveniently demarcated by the turn of the centuries, but the 21st century looks like the opening of a new “paradigm” that might replace what has been called “The Modern Era” itself.

Featured Analysis

The Middle East After The Iranian Nuclear Accord

by Reuel Marc Gerechtvia The Caravan
Monday, October 19, 2015

Not long ago the Obama administration tried to explain Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s budgetary priorities.  The White House’s assertion that the Islamic Republic’s future spending would overwhelmingly be used for domestic, non-military needs was a response to the bipartisan fear that the clerical regime might use some of its new, post-sanctions cash—likely between $100 and $150 billion—on its expeditionary efforts in Syria and Iraq...

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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.