Saudi Arabia in the 1980s: Foreign Policy, Security, and Oil

By William B. Quandt | Go to book overview

Part Two
Coping with the Threats: The Saudi Political System

Saudi Arabia seems destined to confront serious external challenges during the 1980s. Much depends on how the Saudi regime handles these threats. Inevitably questions about Saudi foreign and defense policies lead to questions about the nature of the Saudi political system and its capacity to deal with both domestic and external problems.

In the aftermath of the Iranian revolution it became fashionable to write off the Saudi regime as vulnerable to the same pressures that unseated the shah. Apologists for the Saudis were quick to point to the many differences between Iran and Saudi Arabia, leaving the reassuring impression that the Saud family was immune to the revolutionary virus spreading around it.

The debate over Saudi stability has been largely sterile because of the partisanship of most protagonists. And yet the issue is of sufficient importance that it is worth trying to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the Saudi regime and the strategies available to it for coping with the challenges of the 1980s. To that end, part II of this study examines the structure of authority in Saudi Arabia, the internal pressures for change, the problems most likely to arise, and typical patterns of response. Finally, several recent cases of Saudi foreign policy decisions are analyzed, including decisions on oil production and pricing.

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