Small Wars Journal

Saudi Arabia Is at Its Least Stable in 50 Years

Mon, 09/24/2018 - 11:26am

Saudi Arabia Is at Its Least Stable in 50 Years by Bruce Riedel - Al-Monitor

The stability of Saudi Arabia is becoming more fragile as the young crown prince’s judgment and competence are increasingly in doubt. Mohammed bin Salman has a track record of impulsive and reckless decisions at home and abroad that calls into question the kingdom’s future.

For the last half century the stability of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has never been seriously in doubt. After King Faisal removed his incompetent and corrupt brother Saud from the throne in 1964, the line of succession has been clear and uncontested. Under Faisal’s rule the economy grew, especially when his 1973 oil embargo jacked prices up significantly. His assassination did not disrupt the stability nor did the 1979 takeover of the great mosque in Mecca by a handful of fanatics. Early in this century the kingdom faced a determined assault by Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda but the efficient security services, led by Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, turned back the threat.

Even the Arab Spring had little tangible impact on the kingdom’s stability. King Abdullah spent over $130 billion in salary increases and other benefits to buy off any dissent. Trouble was possible but the royal family was united behind Abdullah. The Saudis intervened in Bahrain to ensure the Gulf states were quiet; the kingdom's troops are still on the island…

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