The kingdom of Saudi Arabia is such an established feature of today’s Middle East that it comes as something of a surprise to realize that it is less than a hundred years old. It was only in 1932 that Abdul Aziz ibn Saud, after a 30-year political and military struggle against local warlords and the Ottoman Empire, named the area that he had conquered “Saudi Arabia”, and proclaimed himself its first king.
With no troops to command and a Riyadh-based skeleton staff, General Raheel Sharif, Pakistan’s recently retired top commander, appeared to slide into a cushy job as commander of a 41-nation, Saudi-led military alliance created to fight terrorism.
Critics in the Maldives likely sighed relief when Saudi King Salman this week postponed his visit because of an outbreak of flu. The flu is however unlikely to halt a planned massive Saudi investment or the impact on Maldives society of the kingdom’s religion-driven public diplomacy. Big ticket investments and countering political violence dominated the headlines of the king’s tour of Asia together with the extravagance of his travel – an entourage of at least 1,000, 459 tonnes of luggage, a golden electric elevator for the monarch to descend from his private plane, and a specially built toilet for his visit to a Jakarta…
Pakistan is emerging as an important military player in the Gulf as its struggles to balance complex relations with regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran and diverging approaches by different branches of its government. Pakistan’s military engagement with the Gulf goes far beyond increased involvement in a Saudi-led, 41-nation military alliance that officially was established to counter terrorism, but is widely suspected to also be a bid to garner support for the kingdom’s troubled intervention in Yemen and create an anti-Iranian Sunni Muslim grouping.
This week’s sanctioning of one of China’s largest telecom equipment manufacturers, ZTE, by the US Commerce Department, and an investigation of Huawei, ZTE’s foremost Chinese competitor, could not have come at a more auspicious moment for Saudi King Salman as he visits China on the third leg of his month-long Asian tour. King Salman’s visit aims to strengthen economic and military ties and persuade China that Saudi Arabia rather than Iran is its most useful regional ally. The penalties and investigation of the two Chinese companies related to violations of US sanctions on Iran as well as North Korea signal the Trump…
There is much debate about what spurs political violence. The explanations are multi-fold. There is one aspect that I’d like to discuss here as it relates to Africa and that is the role of Saudi Arabia. Let me be clear: With the exception of a handful of countries, none of which are in Africa, Saudi Arabia, that is to say the government, the religious establishment and members of the ruling family and business community, does not fund violence.
A year ago, Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel of Germany rebuked Saudi Arabia for financing Wahhabi mosques worldwide. In the case of Germany, he added, such mosques had fostered extremists who threatened public security. That campaign by Saudi Arabia as well as other nations or organizations in the Gulf has been fueled by oil-wealth and has taken strategic advantage of Saudi control of the holy sites in Mecca and Medina. And it has been carried out by states that rely on the military, security, and economic ties with the United States and by other Western nations. Is Wahhabist ideology a problem, and if so,…
An unpublished survey of aspirations of young Saudi men suggests that garnering enthusiasm for Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud’s vision of the kingdom’s social and economic future, let alone a buy in, is likely to meet resistance without a hitherto lacking effort to win support.
Two high-level meetings in recent months involving senior military commanders and intelligence officials and/or top-level government representatives spotlight Pakistan’s difficulty in coming to grips with domestic and regional political violence resulting from decades of support of militant Islamist and jihadist groups for foreign policy and ideological reasons. Overcoming those difficulties could determine Pakistan’s future, the nature of its society and its place in the world.
Here’s a pictorial reminder that Saudi Arabia has definitely evolved a lot over the past century or so. Saudi Arabia’s buzzwords of 2016 are “change” and “modernization.” So it might do us well to see how far the kingdom has come.