The major question is whether either saudi or American forces are capable of stopping the violence and decay now occurring across the kingdom. As eastern Europe showed only too well in the late eighties, force alone – or the threat of it – was not enough to prevent the collapse of the Soviet empire. Still less can it save the Saudi regime, ﬂoundering between the demands of hard-line clerics and tribal factions.
The senior leadership cannot even count on its own princes – all 22,000 of them – not to deal behind its back, either with radical Islamists or the Americans. Trust is the cement that holds any effective government together – and the Al Saud has lost large quantities of it.