National Security in Saudi Arabia: Threats, Responses, and Challenges

By Anthony H. Cordesman; Nawaf Obaid | Go to book overview

Chapter 10
The Broader Priorities
for Security Reform

The analysis in this book has focused on military and internal security developments in the Kingdom. These are the conventional areas dealt with in national security analysis, and the Kingdom faces serious challenges in both areas. The fall of Saddam Hussein's regime has left many security challenges, and the rise of Islamist extremism and violence poses a whole new series of internal security challenges. The preceding chapters have described both considerable ongoing progress in meeting these challenges and many areas where further reforms and changes are needed.

As has been discussed in virtually every chapter, however, Saudi security also requires a broad process of continuing evolutionary reform of the Kingdoms political, economic, and social systems, not just reform of the Saudi military, internal security, and intelligence services.

The health of the Saudi economy, and coming to grips with the Kingdom's problems with education, Saudization, youth employment, and demographics are the true keys to security. So is a level of political progress that expands the role ordinary Saudis can play in government and in making further reductions in sources of social unrest like corruption. Even the best counterterrorist operations can only deal with the small fraction of the Saudi population that represents violent extremists. True internal security is based on popular support.

The West has been quick to recognize the problems in Saudi Arabia and slow to recognize that progress both is under way and has had the support of the Saudi leadership in many areas. For example, King Fahd has made reforms a clear national priority. In his speech at the annual meeting of the Shura Council in Riyadh in 2003, he underscored the Saudi government's commitment to reform. The king reaffirmed the government's commitment in fighting terrorism, poverty, and unemployment. He also gave his approval for the establishment of a nongovernmental body that would focus on human rights, saying, "this development will make the efforts of the state and citizens come together to protect man's dignity" Furthermore, he pledged to eliminate administrative corruption.

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