Saudi Arabia National Security

Saudi Arabian National Security
Saudi Arabian National Security
Saudi Arabian National Security
Saudi Arabian National Security
• Birth place of Islam and site of two of the holy cities of Islam
• World’s largest oil producer
• Under nominal Ottoman control 1517-1918
• Monarchy built upon alliance between family of Al-Saud &
Muwahhidun (“Wahhabis”)
• Three Saudi state-formation and state-building experiments:
– 1st Saudi state 1745-1818
– 2nd Saudi state 1824-1891
– 3rd Saudi state 1902-Present
• Will the third Saudi state survive external & domestic threats??
1st Saudi State & State-formation
• Alliance between Muhammad ibn Sa`ud, Amir of
Di`iriyyah and Muhammad bin Abd al-Wahhab;
secular & religious authority brought together
• Proselytism and expansion: 1765 Nejd conquered,
1790 all Arabian peninsula except Hedjaz, 1798
tried to attack Mesopotamia
• Military overconfidence and barbaric behavior of
• Egyptians under Muhammad Ali smash the 1st
Saudi state in 1818
Lack of foreign support, alienation of neighbors,
overconfidence in mil. capabilities
2nd Saudi State and State-formation:
• In 1824 Turki ibn Abdallah rallies tribes under Wahhabi banner and
drives Egyptians out of Nejd. Est. of capital in Riyadh
• Turki begins strategy of re-conquest of peninsula, carried on by son
• Egyptians in peninsula in 1838: overthrow Faisal; vassal Saudi state
under Khalid (1838-42) and Abdallah (1842-1843)
• Faisal seizes control again (1842-1865): massive expansion and
consolidation, confrontation w/ British, recognition of British mil.
• 2nd Saudi state weakened by severe internecine 1865-1889 conflicts
and overthrown by rivals Al-Rashids another prominent Nedji tribe.
Internal dissension = threat & collapse
3rd Saudi State & State-formation:
• Emir Abd- al Aziz (Ibn Saud) recaptures Riyadh: extends
control over neighboring provinces: e.g. southern Nejd &
Al-Qasim, Al-Hasa
• Uses the Ikhwan Movement for consolidation of power
• Annexation of Jamal Shammar, delimitation of borders w/
neighbors, conquest of Hedjaz & Asir
• The Ikhwan Rebellions and their defeat at Sibilla,1929
• Oil Concessions and Consolidation of Power, 1934-1945
• Emergence of U.S.-Saudi Informal Alliance
• Kingdom’s emerging role in regional politics
Saudi National Security
Threat Perceptions, 1954-1973
• Internal: intra-dynastic squabbles, nationalists and
radicals, Shi`is, army officers, progressive princes,
vulnerability of oil infrastructure and oil export
• External: Arab nationalism and radicalism, ArabIsraeli conflict, Egypt, Republicanism in Yemen,
Marxist movements (Dhufar Rebellion), Soviet
penetration of Middle East, Iraq, Imperial Iranian
Saudi National Security and Threat
Perceptions: 1974-Present
Saudi National Security and Threat
Perceptions: 1974-Present
• Internal: Religious radicalism, Succession crisis
(?), Shi`i mobilization, vulnerability of oil
infrastructure, massive socioeconomic distress,
demographics & youth bulge, foreign workers,
• External: Iraq, Iran (Pahlavi & IRI), Israel,
proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction,
Beyond The Cairo Effect
A radical anti-Western regime in Saudi Arabia—which produces one of every four barrels of oil worldwide—clearly would endanger the world economy.
Unless the regime rapidly and radically reforms itself, it will remain vulnerable to upheaval.
The gap between aged rulers and youthful subjects grows dramatically as the information gap between
rulers and ruled shrinks.
The average age of the kingdom's trio of ruling princes is 83, yet 60% of Saudis are under 18 years of
age. Thanks to satellite television, the Internet and social media, the young now are well aware of
government corruption—and that 40% of Saudis live in poverty and nearly 70% can't afford a home.
These Saudis are living Third World lives, suffering from poor education and unable to find jobs in a
private sector where 90% of all employees are imported non-Saudis.
Through new media the young compare their circumstances unfavorably with those in nearby Gulf
sheikhdoms and the West.
The combination of revolution in Cairo and government ineptitude in Jeddah produced widespread
Saudi cynicism and anger on social media.
The traditional sources of stability in Saudi Arabia have been the royal family and the Wahhabi
religious establishment with which it is closely intertwined. These twin pillars were losing credibility
and legitimacy even before events in Egypt.
The royal family increasingly is seen by its subjects as profligate, corrupt and unable to deliver efficient
The religious establishment, even as it enforces its uniquely austere brand of Islam, is increasingly seen
as prostituting itself by using religion to support whatever the ruling family wants.
As events in Cairo have played out, some worried younger princes have privately acknowledged the
need to curb corruption, better serve citizens, and reform the dysfunctional government bureaucracy.

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