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  • Author: F. Gregory Gause III
  • Publication Date: 12-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Council on Foreign Relations
  • Abstract: There is arguably no more unlikely U.S. ally than Saudi Arabia: monarchical, deeply conservative socially, promoter of an austere and intolerant version of Islam, birthplace of Osama bin Laden and fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers. Consequently, there is no U.S. ally less well understood. Many U.S. policymakers assume that the Saudi regime is fragile, despite its remarkable record of domestic stability in the turbulent Middle East. “It is an unstable country in an unstable region,” one congressional staffer said in July 2011. Yet it is the Arab country least affected in its domestic politics by the Arab upheavals of 2011. Many who think it is unstable domestically also paradoxically attribute enormous power to it, to the extent that they depict it as leading a “counterrevolution” against those upheavals throughout the region. 2 One wonders just how “counterrevolutionary” the Saudis are when they have supported the NATO campaign against Muammar al-Qaddafi, successfully negotiated the transfer of power from Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen, and condemned the crackdown on protestors by Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, and how powerful they are when they could do little to help their ally Hosni Mubarak in Egypt.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Economics, International Trade and Finance, Islam, Oil, Bilateral Relations
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Arabia, Saudi Arabia