The first hundred days of the reign of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz give a glimpse of the future of Saudi Arabia under the new monarch. How will the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques address complex problems such as mounting public debts, unemployment, foreign threats, political reform, and women’s rights? For its part, terrorism will remain a long term concern for the authorities, despite the past victories of Saudi security forces, because of its ideology. In order to defeat terrorism, the Kingdom needs to confront extremism which has damaged its reputation internationally as countries who are falling victim of terro blame the cradle of Islam for its rise. Whatever the accusations, the solution can only be for the international community to cooperate in order to rid itself of the ills of terror.
King Abdullah has to also contend with a increasingly complex and problematic regional situation; Saudi Arabia finds itself in the middle of a volatile region and is very preoccupied about external threats to its stability, as His Royal Highness knows only too well from past experience.
In the East, Iran still has the ability to shake the region with its decisions and the pronouncements of its leaders; it is resuming nuclear activities and continues to host for al Qaeda leaders who carry out terrorist operations in Saudi Arabia as well as the perpetrators of the explosions in Khobar in the mid nineties.
To the North lies an Iraq in turmoil. Fearing the worse, Riyadh hopes for a stable Iraq with a powerful central government that can restore order and security. It is yet to been seen when and how this will come about and what will happen if the situation goes out of control; will neighboring countries be exposed to the violence that will ensue? The U.S, with its military bases in Qatar and Iraq , has also become a neighbor. Whilst Washington cannot be criticized for its intentions, its decision to disband the Iraqi Army and dissolve the old security forces has created chaos in Iraq . A long-running disagreement between the Riyadh and the Washington is the latter’s inability to impose a peaceful solution to the Middle East conflict and pressure Israel to accept it . It is worth remembering the relations between the two historical allies are multifaceted; Saudi Arabia ’s importance to and influence with Washington serves the Arab world. For his part, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz has enjoyed very good relations with the White House, through out the last decade.
Despite the problems outlined above, the wider picture for the Kingdom remains firmly optimistic. The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques begins his reign positively as Saudi Arabia expects to gain the highest revenues in its history, with an increase of 48% from last year. This higher revenue as well as decreasing public debts, a stock market boom which has reached the lower economic classes, the ongoing fight against terrorism, political reform, economic prosperity, the imminent World Trade Organization membership, and victory in cases against Saudi interests in US courts, all are positive developments greeting King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz as he ascends to the throne and an excellent omen for the future.
This is the second part of a two-part series examinging the challenges faced by King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz as he ascends to the throne of Saudi Arabia.