With the upheavals in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia must grapple with a changing political landscape, including Salafis participating in elections, says F. Gregory Gause. At the same time, he says the country remains vested in curbing Iranian influence in Arab affairs.
Today's 'Day of Rage' in Saudi Arabia fizzled, but the Saudis are tense about protests in the neighboring monarchy of Bahrain and U.S. support for the recent revolutionary wave in the Middle East, says Saudi expert Rachel Bronson.
F. Gregory Gause III, a leading expert on Iraq and Saudi Arabia, says a lack of leadership among Iraq's Shiite politicians is holding up approval of a U.S.-Iraqi security pact. He also talks about new Saudi efforts to engage the Taliban in a peace parley.
F. Gregory Gause, a leading Saudi Arabia expert, says the U.S. plan to sell some $20 billion in sophisticated military hardware to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states is part of a concerted effort in Washington to get the Saudis to ease their hard line toward the Iraqi government.
Rachel Bronson, CFR’s top Middle East expert and author of a new book on Saudi-American relations, Thicker Than Oil: America’s Uneasy Partnership With Saudi Arabia, says that she does not expect Saudi-American relations to approach the closeness of the Cold War years, when the two countries were allied against the spread of Communism. “We should expect it to be a rockier road, although I do expect the relationship to muddle through,” says Bronson, a senior fellow and director of Middle East and Gulf Studies at CFR.
"Two camps are emerging: one led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which maintains that political Islam is a perilous force that should be confronted; and the other led by Qatar and Turkey's ruling party, which believes in political Islam's ability to transform the region. 'This confrontation has not reached its peak yet,' [Tarek Osman] says. Saudi Arabia's policies might be pursued in the name of stability. But they could well achieve the opposite."
"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.
In this Vanity Fair adaptation of The Eleventh Day, by Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan, the authors explore connections between the Saudi royal family, the September 11th attacks, and the Bush administration's suppression of critical evidence.
The Council on Foreign Relations' David Rockefeller Studies Program—CFR's "think tank"—is home to more than seventy full-time, adjunct, and visiting scholars and practitioners (called "fellows"). Their expertise covers the world's major regions as well as the critical issues shaping today's global agenda. Download the printable CFR Experts Guide.
The authors argue that it is essential to begin working now to expand and establish rules and norms governing armed drones, thereby creating standards of behavior that other countries will be more likely to follow.
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.