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Saudi Arabia’s Regime and Upheavals Essay

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Updated: Jan 1st, 2021

What are the four sources of stability of Saudi regime?

Using the power of money

Saudi Arabia has been one of the least affected nations by the continuous upheaval among the Arab states. The lack of peace and stability has indeed threatened to interfere with peace in the region. It is important to note Gause (2011) indicates that this may not necessarily be due to the fact that the country is immune to political, economic, and social forces causing crises in other Arab regimes. As a matter of fact, Saudi Arabia faces challenging socio-economic and political situations similar to other states in the region.

However, one of the reasons for stability is the fact that rulers in Saudi Arabia use the power of money to buy loyalty (Gause, 2011). This has been achieved through payouts to employees, buying homes for its top-class citizens, and introducing unemployment benefits among others. These strategies have indeed acted as a means of lowering public anger and rage against daily challenges that they may be facing.

Forming a well-trained army of loyalists

Another source of stability comes from the deployment of loyal security forces like Special Forces, secret police, and police officers to curb uprisings (Gause, 2011). It is worth noting that the term “loyal” springs from how the due process of recruitment is executed. Usually, it is not done exclusively, but disproportionately from areas and tribes which are loyal to the regime.

Mobilizing patronage networks in the regime

Effective networking or networks in Saudi Arabia has been lauded as a major source of stability. The foundation of its political system rests on patronage and has been seen to flow from downwards right from the top through clans, tribes, business families to religious, sporting, and media institutions as well as among individuals (Gause, 2011). Of greatest importance among the aforementioned channels is the religious institution whereby Wahhabi clerics hold important positions of influence enough to condemn any form of demonstrations.

A disunited group of reformers

Another contributing factor to stability is the fact that many reform groups that can pressure the government for a change do not work in unity and the same purpose. This has been used to divide and rule the country in a much easier way since there is an overall lack of unity. Such groups include the Salafi Islamists and other women groups who offer petitions that do not carry much influence due to divisions created by different ideologies and opinions. So far, the various groups have been ruled with lots of ease with limited resistances.

What could be the future sources of instability that the Saudi regime may face?

Lack of reforms

Most citizens in Saudi Arabia are not free and their political activists calling for reforms are often jailed and executed. Gause (2011) argues that this coupled with continuing Shia killings has the potential to ignite possible uprising since there is growing discontent among them every single day.


The rate of unemployment among the youth is high and this may trigger upheavals since jobs that are created most of them do not target the youth, rather they are meant for expatriates. Besides, there are only a few Saudis working in jobs in the private sector, while there are no jobs for young people in the government sector where salaries are high (Gause, 2011). The unemployed group may eventually gang up to seek redress from the government.

Fiscal rules and obligations

Fiscal issues in Saudi are not new due to the drop in oil prices and the financial obligations that the government has put in place. Even though it would be worth noting that fiscal obligations are one-time expenses, they may be recurring in areas such as the creation of jobs, paying higher salaries, and increasing stocks. Another issue is the budget where oil consumes a larger percentage of Saudi revenue. With the current oil crisis, the government may run at a budget deficit and prices may go up to about $300 per barrel in the next coming years (Gause, 2011).

Is Saudi Arabia a “counter-revolutionary” force in the Middle East? To what extent does it support (or does not support) the various Arab uprisings?

Saudi Arabia and America’s support for Bahrain are largely driven by their interests in the country. The US maintains one of the largest military bases in Saudi which it uses in monitoring the flow of oil from the Gulf (Gause, 2011). The US further uses the Saudi base in its Middle East fight against terror groups and espionage purposes to nations perceived to support terror. Saudi Arabia on the other hand has some of its oil wells in Bahrain and consequently supports the Sunni minority for fear of losing them should the demonstrating Shia majority take over the government (Gause, 2011). Besides, this support has also been interpreted as emerging fear by the Saudi government of similar resistance.

What are three of the Saudi regime’s diplomatic failures in Middle East politics?

One of the diplomatic failures of Saudi in the Middle East is with Iran. This resulted from its support to Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war. The second state is Palestine whereby Saudi Arabia offered support to the Fatah movement of the Palestinian authority government against Hamas who received support from Iran (Gause, 2011). As such, this made the agreement that Saudi tried to broker between Hamas and the Palestinian government to fail to materialize. Thirdly is Lebanon, which Saudi offered massive support during the Sunni political movement and the March 14 coalition for Rafiq al-Hariri against Hezbollah. However, Hezbollah was able to conquer Lebanon and form a new government in spite of Saudi’s interventions.

According to martin Hvidt, in what ways is Dubai a neo-patrimonial state?

The neo-patrimonial state of Dubai has been characterized by the manner in which it is governed by nepotism. Inasmuch as Dubai oil reserves produce revenue which its leadership invests into the economy to boost traders and the infrastructure, much of it is done to significantly strengthen the economic position of its ruler, through buying loyalty from society members including the elite group (Hvidt, 2009). This bought individuals are then co-opted into the structure of the neo-patrimonial state, given wealth to ensure that the leader gains considerable popularity and political acquiescence.

List and discuss the various elements of the Dubai development model. According to Hvidt, is the model sustainable?

The model is indeed sustainable as it offers credible and practical developmental processes that Dubai has seen due to certain factors or elements such as:

  1. a) Conscious policies- Hvidt points out that the developmental process of Dubai has been effectively attained due to well-set policies on development by its leadership (Hvidt, 2009).
  2. b) Interaction of cultural political and economic factors- Another major reason for its success is the interactions between important economical growth factors like politics, institutions, and culture which lends to the developmental process a platform for growth (Hvidt, 2009).

According to Peterson, what is a small/microstate? What are the advantages of being a small/microstate? What are the disadvantages of being one?

A microstate is a term used to refer to a sovereign state covering a small land area and usually with a small population of fewer than 2 million people (Peterson, 2006). One of the advantages of being a microstate rests on the fact that they are less clear cut when compared to costs, they have better accommodation of preferences compared to large states which are heterogeneous on redistributive preferences. On the other hand, when comparing larger states with a microstate, Peterson (2006) argues that the latter has more disadvantages and risks, is broadly defined, and incurs higher per capita costs since they lack economies of scale. Besides, they may produce an inferior quality of goods since being small means less labor and specialized skills.

Why is branding necessary? And how is it done with regards to small states such as Qatar (or even Dubai)?

The practice of branding has been considered necessary to boost a business or a state through marketing. For instance, Dubai markets itself with brand quality and innovation (Peterson, 2006). This is done by erecting iconic buildings such as the Emirates tower and the Burj al-Arab among others that have become popular worldwide.

According to Maximilian Terhalle, what are the various steps that Saudi Arabia and Bahrain took in the past to accommodate their Shia populations?

Terhalle (2007) points out in his article, Are the Shia rising that the accommodation trend that has been given to the Shia by Saudi Arabia and Bahrain in the past has been that of mistreatments, torture, and marginalization of the Shia population. This has been attributed to the view that Saudi regards them as rejectionists who oppose their democratization plans.

How has the force of nationalism divided Shias in the Middle East?

While both Shia and Sunni share the most fundamental articles of faith and Islamic beliefs, they are divided along historical lines largely based on leadership and resources (Terhalle, 2007). Unlike the Shia Muslims who believe in abiding by the doctrines and cultures of Islam, Shias believe that leadership was supposed to have followed the Muhammad lineage. Shias are often killed because they claim to own most of the resources and are opposed to policies by Saudi and their relations with the US. Consequently, suppressing them reduce their possibilities of rising to gain controlling powers (Terhalle, 2007). Killing them is therefore used as a political tool to eliminate rivals and then claim that it was the will of Allah.

Based on the discussions of the various political factors regarding the potential rise of a “Shiite crescent” how does Terhalle assess the rise of Shiism in the Middle East?

Saudi Arabia and Bahrain governments have resorted to fighting their own people as they demonstrate against various forms of oppression (Terhalle, 2007). Although Shia Muslims form the majority, they hold the perception that continued dominance of the Sunni minority leadership is highly illegitimate. The revolution sweeping over the entire Middle East has only invoked the long-held feelings of suppression by the Shia majority (Terhalle, 2007). Additionally, a constant abuse of human rights and suppressed exercise for democracy has compelled citizens to go against their own government. It is also against this backdrop that these two governments have become relatively unpopular among their citizens leading to a rise in rebellions that are difficult to quell down (Terhalle, 2007).


Gause, F. G. (2011). Saudi Arabia in the New Middle East. Council Special Report No. 63.

Hvidt, M. (2009). The Dubai model: an outline of key development-process elements in Dubai. International Journal of Middle East Studies, 41, 397–418.

Peterson, J. E. (2006). Qatar and the World: Branding for a Micro-State. Middle East Journal, 60(4): 732-749.

Terhalle, M. (2007). Are the Shia rising? Middle East Policy, 14(2): 69-84.

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