Saudi Arabia: National Security in a Troubled Region

Saudi Arabia: National Security in a Troubled Region

Saudi Arabia: National Security in a Troubled Region

Saudi Arabia: National Security in a Troubled Region


A thorough examination of the nation of Saudi Arabia, focusing on the current state of affairs and potential future challenges.

• Presents tables and charts with relevant economic, political, security, and public perception data

• Includes several chronologies focusing on the period from 1998 to present day

• Offers an exhaustive bibliography of nearly 450 references


The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s strategic importance is driven by two key factors: religion and petroleum. It is the location of Islam’s two most important holy places and the scene of Islam’s annual pilgrimage. It plays an important role in the lives of over 1.6 billion Muslims, of which only roughly 15 percent are Arab. At a time when religion is a critical factor in global politics, the fact that the King of Saudi Arabia is called the “custodian of the two mosques” is not merely a title. Saudi Arabia’s moderate regime is a key player in limiting the growth of extremism and terrorism.

Saudi Arabia is also the largest petroleum power in a world shaped by a global economy that is increasingly dependent on the steady and secure flow of petroleum exports. Saudi Arabia has the largest oil reserves in the world, the largest oil production capacity, and some of the largest gas reserves. Projections by the Energy Information Administration (EIA) of the U.S. Department of Energy estimate that Saudi oil production will increase from 1.6 million barrels per day (MMBD) in 2006 to 13.7 MMBD by 2025 in the reference case and 16.8 MMBD by 2030 in the low-price case. To put these numbers in perspective, the EIA estimates that total world production of liquids was 84.2 MMBD in 2006, would be 106.5 MMBD in 2025 in the reference case, and would be 122 MMBD in 2030 in the low-price case.

Religion and oil, however, are only two aspects of Saudi security. The fall of Saddam Hussein, and the destruction of Iraq’s conventional military forces, has left a power vacuum in the northern Gulf that Iran is actively seeking to exploit. Saudi Arabia is the only country that is large enough and strong enough to underpin any regional security structure in the southern Gulf. It is the one southern Gulf country that can provide strategic depth to the other, smaller southern Gulf States—which are minutes or seconds of flight time from Iran, and whose forces are far too small to defend themselves by acting alone.

Saudi security is heavily dependent upon the military strength and effectiveness of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) that binds together Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman . . .

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