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Saudi ArabiaRoyal Family Essay Research Paper Saudi

Saudi Arabia-Royal Family Essay, Research Paper Saudi Arabia Prospects for the 21st Century Background In 1932, various tribes of the Arabian Peninsula were united by Abdul Aziz bin Abdul Rahman. The tribes forged an alliance with the Al Saud family, who has ruled over the kingdom since. The partnership developed a legitimizing framework for their rule.

Saudi Arabia-Royal Family Essay, Research Paper

Saudi Arabia Prospects for the 21st Century

Background

In 1932, various tribes of the Arabian Peninsula were united by Abdul Aziz bin Abdul Rahman. The tribes forged an alliance with the Al Saud family, who has ruled over the kingdom since. The partnership developed a legitimizing framework for their rule. Their state was based on the strict adherence to Islamic values, unity and cohesion among domestic groups, and the wealth accumulated from oil reserves.

Successive Saudi rulers have ensured their survival through a shared sense of ideology, and a strong understanding of order. Traditionally, the successor to the throne has been one of the surviving sons of King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud, the first king, and founder of the modern state of Saudi Arabia. This process had not been expressly clarified until 1992, when King Fahd issued an edict elaborating the procedure of succession to the throne.

Today, the Saudi-tribal alliance is being contested by radical elements. Both religious and secular opposition forces are questioning the ideological principles of the Al Saud regime. Militant Islamic groups fear the domination of the royal family will detract from the Islamic roots of the state. The Al Saud s religious status is an important pillar of their rule as they host two of the three holiest sites of Islam, Mecca and Medina.

In the 1990s, the Al Saud rule seemed to be heading for a period of instability. In 1993-94, the country experienced a financial crisis. The United States military presence in the state had angered traditional Islamic forces. In November 1995, an U.S.-run Saudi National Guard installation in Riyadh was bombed, in apparent retaliation for the execution of an opposition activist in August. After the beheading of four Saudis in connection with the attack, a much more devastating bomb killed 19 United States servicemen in military barracks in Khobar.

The Committee for the Defense of Human Rights (CDLR) had led political opposition to the traditional Saudi rule. This group, established in London in May 1993, served as a two-way conduit for regime-damaging information flowing into and out of the Kingdom. This group suffered great amounts of repressive measures and by 1997, had been effectively silenced. There exists no formal, political alternative to the Al Saud rule.

Economic Tension

Saudi revenues are subject to extreme fluctuation. The oil sector accounts for one-third of the official GDP. Oil sales account for approximately 90% of export earnings and 75% of budget revenues. Lag in oil prices fuel desires for the diversification of the economy.

Management of state revenues is questionable. Corrupt practices are rampant due to the permeation of familial networks. An example of such profiteering is the phenomena of commission farming, in which a Saudi national will act as broker for foreign-sourced contracts on

lands they have usurped from the state. They charge commission based on the percentage of total contract value. An estimated one-third of government revenue never reaches the

Saudi treasury.

The economy under King Fahd has averaged a .2% growth per annum from 1980 to 1998. Defense expenditures accounted for 30% of the official budget, while another 30% were defense related. Subsidies effectively payments for political support account for the remaining portion of the budget. Per capita income formerly on par with that of the U.S. has fallen to $6,972, less than a quarter of America s. Saudi Arabia has a low level of investment 16.7% of GDP compared with the 27% average for all developing countries.

Saudi Arabia has one of the fastest-growing and most youthful populations in the world. 60% of Saudis are under 21 years old. Youth unemployment is rising at the same time as the population. Jobs are not being created at a sufficient rate. Declining standards of living and increasing poverty are threatening the government s role as patron. Some feel it is the state s social net, which supports a highly educated unemployed class of Saudi graduates, that is preventing revolution. The Saudi educational system is now trying to channel youths away from universities to more technical training. An antipathy exists towards menial jobs. Traditionally, the society has suffered from mudir syndrome; i.e. all menial jobs without authority and status are dishonorable. These jobs will be taken from foreign workers, second-class citizens, who constitute almost one-quarter of the population. Legal rights for these foreign workers are virtually non-existent. The large growth of the population, mixed with the large unemployment figures (an estimated 35% for men), are forcing society to leave behind traditionalist values for the sake of survival.

Another factor in the Saudi s economic development is the goal of World Trade Organization (WTO) accession by the year 2002. WTO membership will require changes to the kingdom s economy, trade practices, and regulations. This will necessitate stamping out rampant software piracy, and possibly opening up banking and securities brokerages to foreign companies. In May 1997, during the third round of negotiations on the application, trade diplomats stated that the Kingdom, must do more to present detailed offers on market access…measures such as easing restrictive practices in the banking sector, are likely to be strongly resisted by vested interests in the Kingdom.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, of which Saudi Arabia is a leading member, are looking to form a common market, an effort receiving vigorous support from the United States. Privatization, WTO membership and the opening of the Saudi economy to free trade and capital flows are all benefits of globalization that the Saudis are courting. Saudi officials are trying to balance the economic gains with the prospect of implementing necessary reforms.

Pressures to quell the economic difficulties are being balanced by the state. If the country is to accept the lower socioeconomic expectations, this may prompt demands for greater political participation. The existing social contract provides for a generous welfare state in exchange for political quiescence. Conservative factions in the ruling class will meet efforts to diffuse their control with reluctance. Loosening financial control without weakening absolute political authority could prove to be a delicate exercise. Additionally, Foreign executives remain skeptical regarding how open an economy the Saudis really want. The Saudis pay lip service to privatization and competition, but the state monopolies don t want it, says a Western source.

Reforms

Crown Prince Abdullah, Heir Apparent to the throne, has played a key role in initiating reform. This year he created the Supreme Economic Council, a cabinet committee charged with liberalizing the economy. The future of Saudi economic liberalization has tremendous implications for both the country s neighbors and the rest of the world. If initiatives succeed in strengthening Saudi Arabia s economy, the Kingdom could invigorate a region that has lagged behind the rest of the planet. Failure could usher in a new cycle of instability that could require U.S. intervention.

Ali bin Ibrahim Al-Namlah, Minister of Labor and Social Affairs, told the United Nations General Assembly in June that his country was working to establish and economic, political, cultural and legal infrastructure to realize social development. Social insurance expenditures amounted to $12.5 Billion at the end of 1999. He emphasized that the Kingdom was working to promote social integration, security, justice, and enhancement of human rights and tolerance. The Kingdom is also adhering to the principles and basic rights of labor issued by the International Labor Organization. Amnesty International is dubious about claims for the improvement for human rights and justice. The group continues to document instances of torture, arbitrary detainment and other violations. Individuals suspected of political or religious dissent are at high risk of arbitrary arrest and indefinite detention without charge or trial. When they are charged and brought to trial, which is rare, the proceedings invariably fail to meet the most elementary standards of fairness.

A privatization policy is now being slowly administrated. One of the bodies at stake is the monolithic, and massively profitable, Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC). SABIC is the holding company for Saudi Arabia s principal petrochemical affairs. Outside influence and support is being reluctantly garnered in the name of reform. Saudi leaders are being pressured to request the assistance of foreign companies. In April a committee chaired by Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal held talks with international companies Exxon Mobil, BP-Amoco, TotalFinaElf, Shell, Conoco and Chevron. The Saudis want gas to feed a new generation of petrochemical, desalinization and power plant initiatives that could create jobs and boost non-oil exports. For now access to Saudi oil reserves are off the table, But, says Ali I Naimi, Petroleum and Mineral Resources Minister, who knows what will transpire 10 years from now. Aramco, Saudi Arabia s oil monopoly, is facing a gradual, if not total, loss of power.

To curb the massive corruption practices, government salaries, stipends, princely privileges, and extortion, Abdullah is likely to invest the 61-member Majlis al-Shura (People s Assembly) with authority for fiscal accountability over public funds. Also, the body is encouraged to generate greater freedom of expression and assembly in its deliberations. Abdullah has also created the Family Council to manage the affairs of the royal family and appease public opinion by divorcing the family s finances with that of the government. He is requiring Western oil companies to sign pledges that they won t use brokers or tamper with government officials, We rule out the intervention of middlemen and fixers… I won t accept any plan if I feel there is a lack of transparency. Prince Abdullah has begun to offer foreigners the chance to own property and open a business without a Saudi national as a majority stakeholder.

By adopting the current program of reform, Abdullah could successfully assuage the growing internal political dissent.

The growing generation of educated Saudis hopes to establish a Westernized economy that is based on merits and not just connections. They hope to invite foreign capital, management, and technology into the Kingdom. Influence from outside is growing. Western-style shopping malls are becoming popular; the Faisaliah Mall in Riyadh attracts up to 300,000 people a week. The malls are one of the few places where sexes, usually segregated, can mix. Satellite television is now a major medium of culture as is the Internet. The content of both mediums is regulated heavily by the government. Drug use, violently discouraged by authorities, is on the rise. The main arresting authorities al-Shurta (the public security police), al-Mabahith al- Amma (General Investigations) and religious police known as al-Mutawa een are not subject to any judicial supervision.

The traditionalist society is coming to grips with the transition that must be made from a closely guarded, secretive culture to one of openness and transparency. We cannot sit by ourselves and say we don t need others. We are part of the international community. We have to live and work with it, said Prince Turki, undersecretary for political affairs in the Saudi Foreign Ministry. The rights of women are slight, but are showing signs of recognition. Women are now being allowed to drive in some cases, a practice that has long been taboo. The move to promote tourism has been a gradual one. Prince Sultan, the nation s tourist chief, was recently quoted as saying, You just can t bring thousands of people in and let them out and about. We are going to move carefully and cautiously.

Saudi Leadership

The Saudi royal family rules with absolute authority. The clear doctrinal imperative of the Saudi monarchy is the defense of Islam. Government decisions are made in conjunction with senior princes who hold ministerial positions. There is less of a legislative process than there is a traditional public relations exercise on behalf of the King and royal family. Frank debate is rarely possible. Resolutions are achieved from either the Council of Ministers, the equivalent of a Western cabinet or from the King s personal circle of advisers in private and informal sessions. The presence of the Majlis (legislative body) bolsters Al Saud legitimacy and stability by promoting the image of consultation, discussion and consensus. Decisions are brought about with minimal political risk, making for a slow process of policy development.

In 1993, the Saudi Consultative Council was formed to formalize the stature of the inner circle of the King s advisors. There are 90 members, serving in an advisory capacity only. They are appointed and dismissed by royal decree. The creation of this body is a concession to, or at least a gesture towards, the modernization of the Saudi government. While this progress may be, to outsiders, so slow as to be almost imperceptible, in a Saudi context, this is a significant step.

Succession to the Throne

77 year-old Prince Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz, half-brother of Fahd, assumed de facto control of the throne after the 1992 edict by King Fahd. The decree dramatically broadened the options for succession. Abdullah vied for power with Prince Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz. By 1997, Abdullah had become the clear successor for the ailing King Fahd. He has effectively been the state leader since. Divisions within the family, coupled with domestic and international change have cast doubt as to whether the regime will be maintained. To sustain the power of the throne, the King must secure the loyalty of the three pillars of Saudi society: the tribes, the armed forces, and the several thousand princes who constitute the house of Saud.

Heir Apparent Abdullah has a strong connection to the internal political affairs of the state. The ruler must monitor public opinion in order to protect against internal challenges to his power. Abdullah has accomplished this by virtue of his leadership of the Saudi Arabian National Guard, the internal security force for the country. Serving as a check on the regular army, which is placed at the periphery, this group is situated at key locations throughout the country. The organization is an instrument for ensuring tribal loyalties and the intelligence resources provided by SANG networks are invaluable for purpos

Saudi Arabia Prospects for the 21st Century

Background

In 1932, various tribes of the Arabian Peninsula were united by Abdul Aziz bin Abdul Rahman. The tribes forged an alliance with the Al Saud family, who has ruled over the kingdom since. The partnership developed a legitimizing framework for their rule. Their state was based on the strict adherence to Islamic values, unity and cohesion among domestic groups, and the wealth accumulated from oil reserves.

Successive Saudi rulers have ensured their survival through a shared sense of ideology, and a strong understanding of order. Traditionally, the successor to the throne has been one of the surviving sons of King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud, the first king, and founder of the modern state of Saudi Arabia. This process had not been expressly clarified until 1992, when King Fahd issued an edict elaborating the procedure of succession to the throne.

Today, the Saudi-tribal alliance is being contested by radical elements. Both religious and secular

Saudi Arabia Prospects for the 21st Century

Background

In 1932, various tribes of the Arabian Peninsula were united by Abdul Aziz bin Abdul Rahman. The tribes forged an alliance with the Al Saud family, who has ruled over the kingdom since. The partnership developed a legitimizing framework for their rule. Their state was based on the strict adherence to Islamic values, unity and cohesion among domestic groups, and the wealth accumulated from oil reserves.

Successive Saudi rulers have ensured their survival through a shared sense of ideology, and a strong understanding of order. Traditionally, the successor to the throne has been one of the surviving sons of King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud, the first king, and founder of the modern state of Saudi Arabia. This process had not been expressly clarified until 1992, when King Fahd issued an edict elaborating the procedure of succession to the throne.

Today, the Saudi-tribal alliance is being contested by radical elements. Both religious and secularpower.

Foreign Relations

Abdullah has not been overly concerned with appeasing the United States. The recent events between the Israelis and Palestinians have been a source of tension between the United States and the Saudi public. The kingdom provides Palestinians with over $1.87 Billion in total aid. They reject any effort to make Jerusalem a Jewish city. They also oppose any further settlements or expulsion of Palestinian Arabs. The ties between Palestine and Saudi Arabia are particularly strong. Arafat is quoted as saying on a radio broadcast that, The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the only Arab country that did not stop its support to the Palestinian Authority. Many internal groups oppose support for United States troops, and resent the role the Washington has played as broker in Middle Eastern disputes. Some see the Washington as favored towards Israel.

Abdullah has stressed the need for Saudi Arabian independence from U.S. military assistance. He would like to see Saudi Arabia as the dominant regional power. This position could be obtained since Iraq is weakened by U.N. sanctions. The other threat to Arabian supremacy is Iran. Abdullah has sought a strengthened relationship with President Khatami. The Saudis have effectively won the support of Iranians for a coordinated policy towards Afghanistan, as well as joint investment policies. Ali Shamkani, the Iranian defense minister, met with Saudi officials in early May 1999 and was quoted as saying that he saw no limit to ties with the kingdom and went so far as to proclaim that Iran s defense capability will be put at the disposal of its Saudi brothers. This has diffused tensions between the two states greatly.

Ties with Yemen have gone from bad to worse stemming from a border dispute over the Hanish Island in 1998. Prince Abdallah has privately warned President Ali Abdallah Saleh of serious repercussions if any border transgressions arise in the future. Qatar has broadcast irreverent televised criticism of Saudi policy. This practice has infuriated Riyadh. The UAE provided the kingdom with much needed assistance during a financial dip in late 1998 improving the relations that had been strained due to border disputes. The new Jordanian monarch has been offered immense support. Relations with other monarchies are also expected to change over the coming years. Egypt depends on the Saudis for financial assistance and is therefore not in a critical position. Warm relations with Syria are being maintained. The Saudi Central Bank has recently decided to forgive Syria s debt. Other assistance to Syria consists of interest-free loans, free shipments of oil, and assistance in paying some of Syria s debt to other world financial institutions.

The press has recently made much of Abdullah s desire to distance himself from American dependence. While Israel continues to be a source of friction between the two nations, many officials feel comfortable with the relationship now enjoyed between Americans and Saudis. Riyadh is unbending in its support for the Palestinians. The relationship, once described as special between Washington and Riyadh, has now become a domestic liability in Saudi Arabia. Despite the apparent deterioration between the two nations, a speech given by US Ambassador Wyche Fowler to a Riyadh audience stated that:

the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has become a good example for other countries in terms of matching the demands of the contemporary era with preservation of social traditions and family values. The wisdom that characterizes the Saudi leadership will enable it, in this century, to enhance still further its well-deserved status as one of the countries that plays a strategic role in international affairs. Saudi/American relations constitute bonds of confidence and friendship that go beyond strategic interests and reach to the core of human ties.

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