National Security

Saudi Arabia: The Evolution of a Kingdom

Saudi Arabia, like Pakistan, has been one of those problematic allies. Security cooperation on one hand, coddling and funding of Islamist extremists on the other. It’s assumed by many in the U.S. Intel community that the House of Saud is merely buying off the Tehran-backed terrorists to keep their bacillus out of the Kingdom. But that deal of convenience could only last so long. Someone was inevitably going to rewrite the rules.

Enter a prince.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) has rocked the boat by granting more liberties to women, cozying up to Israel, challenging Iran in Yemen, and changing the image of Riyadh from an oil-rich religiously fundamentalist medieval sand trap to a nation struggling to enter the modern era. This has not sat perfectly well with some of the myriad number of princes who comprise the state. Nor are the Islamist radicals in and outside the Kingdom happy. But for the average filthy-rich Saud, at least one not extorted or purged in that little operation of 2017, it is increasingly popular.

That’s why allegiances have switched from theological loyalty to a growing nationalism and another, albeit strained, loyalty to the ambitious “Vision 2030” plan championed by MBS. 2030 seeks to diversify the economy, develop the public sector infrastructure, and upgrade the military. In other words, drag the country kicking and screaming into the 19th century.

The plan ruffles feathers because it ends goodies like cheap utilities, tax-free shopping, and easy government sinecures. It also lifts, more by attitude than edict, some restrictions on free speech. While the national conversation is not exactly going to morph into a U.S. town hall meeting, it’s a marked improvement from the days when fundy mullahs exclusively ruled the airwaves and social norms.

This is a positive development for the U.S. because the more normalized the Sauds become the better allies they will be in a pivotal region. Given their aforementioned less than completely covert Intel cooperation with Israel, the evolution is bearing national security fruit for U.S. interests. One hopes the desert continues to bloom in just this fashion.

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
David Kamioner

A veteran of service with US Army Intelligence, the Pershing Nuclear Brigade, and the First Infantry Division, Kamioner is a graduate of the University of Maryland’s European Division and spent over twenty years as a political consultant, college instructor, non-profit director, and corporate PR director. He hails from New York City and grew up in South Florida. He served with the American Red Cross as part of the relief effort for Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012. For several years he ran homeless shelters, most recently homeless shelters for US military veterans. He currently is a Senior Contributor for OpsLens.com, a writer for American Greatness, and the Editorial Director of This Week in the News with Drew Berquist. He is the author of the novel "Prisoner of the Chattering Class" and lives in Annapolis, Maryland.

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