The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Against the grain in Saudi Arabia

Most analysts I've heard think Saudi Arabia can handle any tremors from the wave of unrest hitting the Arab world. This person goes against the grain, it's worth reading. I don't know much about the country, but I could think of no greater progress for the region than the fall of the al-Sauds. That's not what the person below is arguing, but one dares to dream. 

Karen Elliott House: From Tunis to Cairo to Riyadh? -

Thirty years of visiting Saudi Arabia, including intensive reporting over the past four years, convinces me that unless the regime rapidly and radically reforms itself—or is pushed to do so by the U.S.—it will remain vulnerable to upheaval. Despite the conventional wisdom that Saudi Arabia is unique, and that billions in oil revenue and an omnipresent intelligence system allow the regime to maintain power by buying loyalty or intimidating its passive populace, it can happen here.

The many risks to the al Saud family's rule can be summed up in one sentence: The gap between aged rulers and youthful subjects grows dramatically as the information gap between rulers and ruled shrinks. The average age of the kingdom's trio of ruling princes is 83, yet 60% of Saudis are under 18 years of age. Thanks to satellite television, the Internet and social media, the young now are well aware of government corruption—and that 40% of Saudis live in poverty and nearly 70% can't afford a home. These Saudis are living Third World lives, suffering from poor education and unable to find jobs in a private sector where 90% of all employees are imported non-Saudis. Through new media the young compare their circumstances unfavorably with those in nearby Gulf sheikhdoms and the West.