Ahmad Zaihan bin Amran/Shutterstock

The Bewildered Kingdom

To the relief of the Saudi royals, the Arab Spring did not lead to the creation of functioning democracies in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Libya, or Syria. Still, these countries' popular uprisings did fundamentally undermine the pillars of the old regional system with which the Kingdom was so comfortable.

LONDON – During the three years of political upheaval in the Middle East since the “Arab Spring” began, Saudi Arabia has attempted to maintain its dominant status in the region by any means necessary. In 2013, the Saudi royal family searched for regional allies, and sought – as in Egypt – to restore old allies to power. The Kingdom also used its vast oil wealth to bring about the type of regional stability with which they have been familiar for decades.

To the relief of the Saudi royals, the Arab Spring did not lead to the creation of functioning democracies in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Libya, or Syria. Better still, from their perspective, the Islamist regimes that emerged proved to be either fundamentally incompetent, and thus easily overthrown (as with President Mohamed Morsi’s government in Egypt), or merely dysfunctional (as in Tunisia), and thus possessing no appeal as a model for other countries.

Still, the Arab Spring revolutions did fundamentally undermine the pillars of the old regional system with which the Kingdom was so comfortable. It ousted reliable old allies like Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali (now hiding out in Riyadh), and turned once-tolerable regimes like Bashar al-Assad’s in Syria into murderous opponents.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

Registration is quick and easy and requires only your email address. If you already have an account with us, please log in. Or subscribe now for unlimited access.

required

Log in

http://prosyn.org/PzRu8Bp;
  1. An employee works at a chemical fiber weaving company VCG/Getty Images

    China in the Lead?

    For four decades, China has achieved unprecedented economic growth under a centralized, authoritarian political system, far outpacing growth in the Western liberal democracies. So, is Chinese President Xi Jinping right to double down on authoritarianism, and is the “China model” truly a viable rival to Western-style democratic capitalism?

  2. The assembly line at Ford Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

    Whither the Multilateral Trading System?

    The global economy today is dominated by three major players – China, the EU, and the US – with roughly equal trading volumes and limited incentive to fight for the rules-based global trading system. With cooperation unlikely, the world should prepare itself for the erosion of the World Trade Organization.

  3. Donald Trump Saul Loeb/Getty Images

    The Globalization of Our Discontent

    Globalization, which was supposed to benefit developed and developing countries alike, is now reviled almost everywhere, as the political backlash in Europe and the US has shown. The challenge is to minimize the risk that the backlash will intensify, and that starts by understanding – and avoiding – past mistakes.

  4. A general view of the Corn Market in the City of Manchester Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

    A Better British Story

    Despite all of the doom and gloom over the United Kingdom's impending withdrawal from the European Union, key manufacturing indicators are at their highest levels in four years, and the mood for investment may be improving. While parts of the UK are certainly weakening economically, others may finally be overcoming longstanding challenges.

  5. UK supermarket Waring Abbott/Getty Images

    The UK’s Multilateral Trade Future

    With Brexit looming, the UK has no choice but to redesign its future trading relationships. As a major producer of sophisticated components, its long-term trade strategy should focus on gaining deep and unfettered access to integrated cross-border supply chains – and that means adopting a multilateral approach.

  6. The Year Ahead 2018

    The world’s leading thinkers and policymakers examine what’s come apart in the past year, and anticipate what will define the year ahead.

    Order now