National Security in Saudi Arabia
September 1, 2005
With continuing instability in Iraq, the threat of a nuclear Iran, and the ever-present reality of further terrorist attacks within its own borders, Saudi Arabia has been forced to make some hard decisions with regard to the structure of its security apparatus, as well as dealing with economic and demographic threats. What has been accomplished since 9/11, and what are the real prospects and implications of further reform? To what extent should the kingdom continue to rely on the United States to protect its interests? Cordesman and Obaid argue that it is time to put an end to client-tutor relations. Saudi Arabia must emerge as a true partner. This will require the creation of effective Saudi forces for both defense and counterterrorism. Saudi Arabia has embarked on a process of political, economic, and social reform that reflects a growing understanding by members of the royal family, technocrats, and businessmen that Saudi Arabia must reform and diversify its economy and create vast numbers of new jobs for its growing population. And economic reform must be combined with political and social reform if the kingdom is to remain stable in the face of change. The question is how quickly Saudi Arabia can change its overall approach to security--and how successful it will be in the process.
Anthony H. Cordesman holds the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at CSIS. Nawaf Obaid is a Saudi national security and intelligence consultant based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and an adjunct fellow at CSIS.