Saudi Arabia Enters the Twenty-First Century: The Political, Foreign Policy, Economic, and Energy Dimensions

Saudi Arabia Enters the Twenty-First Century: The Political, Foreign Policy, Economic, and Energy Dimensions

Saudi Arabia Enters the Twenty-First Century: The Political, Foreign Policy, Economic, and Energy Dimensions

Saudi Arabia Enters the Twenty-First Century: The Political, Foreign Policy, Economic, and Energy Dimensions

Synopsis

With the eyes of the world carefully monitoring tensions in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia has increasingly found itself at the center of political scrutiny in its internal and external relations. With its military capabilities largely dependent upon the United States and other Western forces, Saudi Arabia cannot concentrate on internal change at the expense of external security. At the same time, growing uncertainties in the world energy market continue to have an impact upon nearly every facet of the Saudi economy. With King Fahd's health in question, and Crown Prince Abdullah already in his mid-seventies, the world ponders how future changes in the regime will affect the delicate balance in the region.

This study looks beyond a narrow definition of political stability to examine the implications of the changes in Saudi external relations with Iran and Iraq, as well as cooperation with the other Southern Gulf States. It explores the succession issue in the Royal Family, the immediate political probabilities, and the generational changes that are occurring. Saudi Arabia faces ongoing demographic problems, as well as the need to diversify and restructure its economy. The Kingdom must find a way to adapt its traditional culture, religious customs, education, and political structure to the needs of a modern nation. Such change will come neither quickly nor easily.

Excerpt

The assessment of Saudi Arabia's strategic position in this volume includes an analysis of the trends in Saudi society, foreign policy and strategic issues, domestic politics and opposition elements, economic trends and challenges, demographics, and energy. A companion volume looks at the military dimension and internal security.

Both volumes are a product of the Saudi Arabia Enters the 21st Century Project of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). This project has been supported by the Smith Richardson Foundation and builds on the work done for the CSIS Strategic Energy Initiative, the CSIS Net Assessment of the Middle East, and the Gulf in Transition Project. It is being conducted in conjunction with a separate—but closely related—study called the Middle East Energy and Security Project.

The project uses a net assessment approach that looks at all of the major factors affecting Saudi Arabia's strategic, political, economic, and military position and future implications of current trends. It examines the internal stability and security of Saudi Arabia, social and demographic trends, and the problem of Islamic extremism. It also investigates the changes taking place in the Saudi economy and petroleum industries, the problems of Saudisation, changes in export and trade patterns, and Saudi Arabia's new emphasis on foreign investment.

The resulting assessment of Saudi Arabia's strategic future includes an analysis of its possible evolution in the face of different internal and external factors—including changes in foreign and trade policies toward Saudi Arabia by the West, Japan, and the Gulf states. Key issues affecting Saudi . . .

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