The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is at a crossroads. The king has concentrated enormous power in the hands of his favorite son, Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, who has just carried out an unprecedented purge of the royal family and the government. Women have been promised the right to drive. The Kingdom is bogged down in a quagmire in Yemen while its economy has flatlined. The future promises to be volatile and unpredictable.
Saudi Arabia is also America’s oldest ally in the Middle East, a unique but rocky relationship dating back to 1943. President Trump chose Saudi Arabia for his first foreign visit. He has endorsed the purge and the Saudi hardline toward Iran.
On November 21, Brookings Senior Fellow Bruce Riedel discussed his new book, “Kings and Presidents: Saudi Arabia and America Since FDR” (Brookings Institution Press), in light of the rapidly changing scene in the Kingdom. Joining him to moderate the conversation was Barbara Slavin, a veteran Gulf watcher and director of the Future of Iran Initiative at the Atlantic Council. Following their remarks, Riedel and Slavin took questions from the audience.
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Rather than serving as a unifying diplomatic exercise to highlight Iran’s troubling regional activities, the [Warsaw] summit primarily highlighted America’s diplomatic isolation from its European allies.