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1997 Editorial Explains Saudi Internal Politics and Foreign Policy

A lot of people have questions about Saudi Arabia's reliability as an ally in the war on terrorism. We found an issue of the Jerusalem Letter that contained an article called Saudi Arabia in the 1990s: Stability and Foreign Policy. The article seems particularly useful in understanding the positions that the Saudi government is taking in the current conflict.

This article was written in 1997 by Mordechai Abir of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. It explains the personalities of the three leading figures of the Saudi royal family, and their attempt to respond to the political demands of the well-educated Saudi middle class while appeasing the more militant factions in their society. The article also points out parts of Wahhabi culture that make Saudi Arabia one of the most xenophobic countries in the world.

This article makes it clear that the Saudi leadership realized more than five years ago that they had a number of foreign relations problems that were primarily caused by side-effects of Saudi internal politics. But, many of these political problems have arisen because of half-steps toward liberalization taken by the Saudi royal family as far back as 1980. Westerners have not paid much attention to these problems, and are now reacting with surprise as they all appear to rise to the the surface simultaneously.

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