This is a summary of a roundtable discussion held at Chatham House on 31 May 2011.
The discussion covered both Saudi domestic politics and Saudi Arabia's position in a changing Middle East. Key findings that emerged during the discussion included:
- When the next generation of princes are considered for succession it is expected to cause major upheaval in the House of Saud.
- There is an unbalanced relationship between the public and private sectors in the Saudi economy. The dominance of the public sector is unsustainable in the long term and there needs to be increasing investment in the private sector to secure longevity for the Saudi economy.
- The Arab Spring poses a much greater threat than Iran to Saudi Arabia; it threaten its core patronage network that underpins the Saudi state.
- The Saudi government has pursued a dual policy approach to the Arab Spring; it has taken steps to limit and halt the advance of democracy in countries such as Bahrain, but has also adopted a policy of engagement with countries that have seen their leader deposed.
- The recent women’s protest was confined to challenging the right to individual freedoms as opposed to challenging the fundamental structure of the regime.