Saudi Arabia: Terminal Decline?

What is the definition of a failing state? If it is a lack of clear central control, increasing violence, an inability to unite competing and opposing factions, and a drastic loss of trust between rulers and the ruled, then Saudi Arabia would surely qualify.

The World Today Updated 16 October 2020 Published 1 July 2004 4 minute READ

Mai Yamani

Associate Fellow, Middle East Programme, Chatham House

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.

Subscribe to read all issues

Articles from the current issue are free to read by all, the archive is exclusive to magazine subscribers and our members. Subscribe or become a member to view articles from the archive.