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.
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.
F. Gregory Gause III interviewed by Bernard Gwertzman
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.
Gause posits that, though the Arab Awakening has caused tensions in Saudi-American relations, the two countries do not face a crisis and still have significant mutual interests that should be prioritized.
Changes in Saudi Arabia's leadership are raising questions about the country's stability in a region beset with uprisings and tensions with Iran. Experts say the Saudi regime should implement more aggressive political and economic reforms.
Learn more about CFR’s mission and its work over the past year in the 2016 Annual Report. The Annual Report spotlights new initiatives, high-profile events, and authoritative scholarship from CFR experts, and includes a message from CFR President Richard N. Haass. Read and download »