Saudi Arabia’s Race Against Time
The Saudi official from the Ministry of Interior’s “ideological security” department was relaxed and confident. The government had uprooted scores of secret al-Qaeda cells, rounded up 5,700 of its followers, and deafened Saudi society to its siren call to jihad to overthrow the ruling al-Saud royal family. For the kingdom, the threat from Islamic terrorists had become manageable. So, what is the main security concern of the Saudi government today? The answer came as something of a surprise: the return of 150,000 Saudis who have been sent abroad to study, nearly one half of whom are now in the United States.
The overwhelming impression from a two week visit to the kingdom is that the House of Saud finds itself in a tight race against time to head off a social explosion, made more likely by the current Arab Awakening, that could undermine its legitimacy and stability. Ironically, the threat stems partly from King Abdullah’s deliberate policy to stimulate reform by sending a new generation of Saudis abroad for training in the sciences, technology, and critical thinking—skills that his kingdom’s own educational system, dominated by ultra-conservative Wahhabi religious clerics, has failed to provide.
The full piece can be found here.
Click here for David B. Ottaway’s chapter on Algeria.