David B. Ottaway: “Saudi Arabia’s Race Against Time”
The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars released a report by David B. Ottaway, Senior Scholar at the center and former Bureau Chief in Cairo for the Washington Post. Ottaway conducted two weeks of research and interviews in Saudi Arabia, and writes on the Saudi government’s fears that youth, including thousands of students returning from studying abroad, have been inspired by other Arab uprisings, and will spark unrest in the kingdom. The policy of sending students abroad, including to the U.S., for study was conceived in 2005 as a way of increasing people-to-people interaction between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. Now, with scant job opportunities for returning Saudis, emerging rebellions on university campuses, and violent protests in the Eastern province, the government is concerned about stability. Ottaway writes that in addition to the persecution of liberal human rights activists, militant clerics have also been targeted for criticizing what reforms the government has initiated.
Ottaway also writes on the kingdom’s remarkably active foreign policy since the Arab uprisings, including its encouragement of Syrian rebels fighting to overthrow the Assad regime, driven by the Saudi-Iranian rivalry for regional influence. Saudi Arabia’s efforts toward total integration of all Gulf Cooperation Council members have not amounted to much, Ottaway writes, and the only other interested member is Bahrain, whose ruling family relies heavily on Saudi support.