"The government, for its part, is wary of clamping down on the mutaween for fear of inciting a conservative backlash and is walking a fine line between the religious police and an increasingly angry populace. While dismantling of the force is unrealistic, this delicate moment opens a window of opportunity for Saudis. By continuing to voice anger and disapproval, the public may provide Riyadh with the leverage it needs to demand police adherence to regulations already in place, and slowly weaken the commission's influence."
This absence of clear unanimity in the Gulf, combined with the momentum of U.S.-Iranian talks, leave Riyadh few options. Moving forward, it is likely to follow in the broad wake of U.S. policy, but with a greater preference for hedging. It may pursue multiple, overlapping policy initiatives as a form of insurance, some of which may clash with U.S. strategies and goals.
Asked by Matthew Rodrigues, from The George Washington University
Since the 1953 death of Saudi Arabia's eponymous founder, King Abdul-Aziz bin Saud, the country has been ruled by his sons. There will eventually be a shift in power to the next generation, but despite—or perhaps because of—the turmoil spreading across the region, that shift does not appear imminent.
Without a more transparent international research and information-sharing system, Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) could spread far beyond the bounds of the region for which it is named, write Laurie Garrett and Maxine Builder.
Elliott Abrams says the return of Bandar bin Sultan as head of Saudi Arabia's intelligence service may "bring Saudi views and interests back to the center of Arab decision making as well as the inner circles in many other world capitals."
As the United States confronts a volatile Middle East, Saudi Arabia is "a central player—sometimes in accord with U.S. policy, sometimes not—in Arab-Israeli peace negotiations, in the quest for stability in Iraq, in Persian Gulf regional security issues focusing on Iran, and in the global struggle to promote a peaceful vision of Islam over jihadist violence," writes Thomas Lippman in a new book, Saudi Arabia on the Edge: The Uncertain Future of an American Ally.
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The author examines Pakistan's complex role in U.S. foreign policy and advocates for a two-pronged approach that works to quarantine threats while integrating Pakistan into the broader U.S. agenda in Asia.