"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."
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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.
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Bruce Riedel discusses what the selection of Saudi Prince Nayef will mean for regional politics in the Middle East and U.S. interests.
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Spared thus far from the Arab Spring, Mahan Abedin suggests the House of Saud begin the process of reform before citizens start to clamor for more political and social rights.
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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.
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In the Financial Times, David Blair writes about the proceedings of OPEC's latest meeting - where Saudi attempts to ease Western oil supply woes were defeated unexpectedly by an Iranian-led coalition.
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Bill Spindle and Margaret Coker explore the historical divides between Iraq and Saudi Arabia and demonstrate how recent uprisings in the region have heightened tensions between the two countries.
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Jean-Francois Seznec analyzes the implications behind the Saudi Arabia's intervention in Bahrain.
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In The National Interest, Bruce Riedel comments on the al-Qaeda plot to terrorize "Obama's city" of Chicago on the eve of U.S. elections back in 2010, noting that the Saudi spy who defected to our allies underscores the importance of U.S. alliances in the Middle East.
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The Saudi royals' risky strategy of dealing personally with defecting al-Qaida members, argues Bernard Haykel, "partly explains al-Qaida's defeat in Saudi Arabia."
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This Middle East Institute Policy Brief examines Saudi strategy and response if Iran acquired nuclear weapons, concluding that the Saudis would much prefer an accommodation with Iran and progress toward its long-stated goal of making the entire region a zone free of nuclear weapons.
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Rehab didn't work for al-Qaeda's deputy in Yemen. Can it work for any terrorist?
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This CRS report for Congress reviews allegations of Saudi involvement in terrorist financing together with Saudi rebuttals, discusses the question of Saudi support for Palestinian organizations and religious charities and schools abroad, discusses recent steps taken by Saudi Arabia to counter terrorist financing (many in conjunction with the United States), and suggests some implications of recent Saudi actions for the war on terrorism.
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After the attacks of September 11, 2001, a 2004 Saudi royal study group recognized the exigency to reform educational material in Saudi Arabia's public school curriculum. The study found that the Saudi public education system advocates a problematic legacy in their religious curriculum that condones violence, repression, and intolerance. Prince Turki al-Faisal, the Saudi ambassador to the United States, made public claims that the Saudi curriculum had been recently reviewed and revised to meet the needs of a more modern education. However, recent copies of Islamic Saudi textbooks that have been translated into English reveal a lack of modernization, which contradicts assertions of Saudi educational reform.
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Joseph McMillan argues in this USIP report that in the near future, U.S. and Saudi perspectives on Iraq will be quite similar with both countries tightly focused on restoring peace and order and preventing the propagation of terrorism. However, there is also ample room for divergence. Saudi Arabia values its ties to Washington, but its ability to cooperate with U.S. policy will be limited by regional and domestic pressures. Ensuring that Saudi Arabia is a force for stability in the Gulf rather than a source of disruption is a continuing challenge for U.S. diplomacy.
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This report reviews allegations of Saudi involvement in terrorist financing
together with Saudi rebuttals, discusses the question of Saudi support for religious
charities and schools (madrasas) abroad, discusses recent steps taken by Saudi
Arabia to counter terrorist financing (many in conjunction with the United States),
and suggests some implications of recent Saudi actions for the war on terrorism.
See more in Terrorist Financing; Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia is in the throes of a crisis, but its elite is bitterly divided on how to escape it. Crown Prince Abdullah leads a camp of liberal reformers seeking rapprochement with the West, while Prince Nayef, the interior minister, sides with an anti-American Wahhabi religious establishment that has much in common with al Qaeda. Abdullah cuts a higher profile abroad -- but at home Nayef casts a longer and darker shadow.
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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 U.S.-Saudi relationship has become strained by increasing mistrust and misunderstanding—most recently over Egypt and Bahrain—and gone are the old foundations of the informal alliance: the Cold War and U.S. operation of Riyadh's oil fields. This is the judgment of F. Gregory Gause III of the University of Vermont, in Saudi Arabia in the New Middle East. The two countries can no longer expect to act in close concert, and the United States should recast the relationship as transactional, one based on cooperation when interests dictate, he argues.
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Council Senior Fellow and Director for Middle East and Gulf Studies Rachel Bronson reveals why the U.S.-Saudi partnership became so intimate and how the countries' shared interests sowed the seeds of today's most pressing problem -- Islamic radicalism.
See more in History and Theory of International Relations; Saudi Arabia; Energy Policy