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The Saudi Form of Democracy: How Women Got to Drive

02.5.23

Introduction  To what extent are state-led social interventions for women authoritarian? Western literature on the Middle East, and in particular on Saudi Arabia, suggests decision-making is centralized and a result of enlightened despots such Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS). But this approach misses upward dialogue initiated by citizenry to communicate desired rights for women to leaderships. […]

Open Letter: Against the Sale of U.S. Arms to Saudi Arabia

11.22.21

As a candidate, Joe Biden promised a values-based U.S. foreign policy towards Saudi Arabia. Less than a year into his presidency, Biden’s administration has abandoned that promise by resuming arms sales to Saudi Arabia, justifying the decision by saying the weapons do not support Saudi “offensive operations.”

Reform or reshuffle? A comparative glance at Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan

05.10.19

In late 2016, most people had never heard of Muhammad bin Salman or Shavkat Mirziyoyev. Both, however, would take control of their respective countries within six months. The shifts of power in Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan represent an abrupt interruption of stable, autocratic regimes. At the outset, there was no reason to expect long-lasting changes […]

Iron Curtain over the Arab world: Evaluating Trump’s inaction on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi

12.4.18

Trump’s statement on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi is worth examining for the baldness of its cynicism and perhaps unprecedented about-face on human rights. But Congress still has an opportunity to act where the White House falls short.

Podcast: Jamal Khashoggi’s murder by Saudi operatives, challenges face Iraq’s new government

11.16.18

In this episode of the Middle East Weekly podcast, we discuss the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the hands of Saudi agents in Istanbul, the formation of and challenges facing Iraq’s new government, the re-instatement of sanctions on Iran, and an election boycott in Bahrain. Khashoggi was murdered when he visited the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain paperwork for his marriage. After initially denying reports of his killing, Saudi authorities have since acknowledged his death and enacted their own investigation. They have continued to deny charges by Turkish authorities that Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman ordered Khashoggi’s death personally, instead insisting that the killers were acting of their own accord. In Iraq, the new President Barham Salih is working to form his cabinet. He faces domestic pressure to address inefficiencies and shortages of critical government services, especially utilities. Iranian officials have debated legal action to align the country with European policies on terror financing, in an effort to convince European countries to continue doing business with Iran as American sanctions come back into effect. In Bahrain, the opposition party al-Wefaq staged a boycott ahead of elections there, citing discriminatory government policies preventing its members from running for office. 

Event Review: Youth Movements and Political Participation in Saudi Arabia

11.9.18

Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) is a member of Saudi Arabia’s swelling youth population. Even as MBS courts favor with his young subjects, his efforts may not meet high expectations for reform.

Borrowing Time: Rents and Reform in Saudi Arabia

02.12.18

Of the three various frames for studying the MENA region at present questions of securing economic development and reforming social welfare programs generally receive less attention than topics such as Islamism, security sector reform, or social mobilization. Most analysts…struggle to imagine the kind of economic improvement that could curb high levels of unemployment (especially among the educated) and generate much-needed revenue to finance state services such as education, health care, and basic infrastructure projects.

Uncertain allies: the Jerusalem announcement amid shifting regional priorities

12.7.17

President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem undoubtedly complicates the picture; is the Holy City a red-line issue which the Saudis will feel compelled to publicly object to? As guardians of the two holiest sites in Islam, there has historically been an expectation that the Saudis would repudiate such a move. But, in these new times, will the royals bite their tongues, calculating that the Kingdom’s deepening links with the Jewish state are more important than demanding that East Jerusalem be reserved as the future capital of a Palestinian state?

International Relations and Security

Podcast: Thomas Friedman’s controversial op-ed on Saudi Arabia and the attack on al-Rawda Mosque in Egypt

12.1.17

On this week’s episode of the Middle East Weekly we discuss Thomas Friedman’s recent controversial column “Saudi Arabia’s Arab Spring, at Last” and the attack on al-Rawda Mosque in Egypt’s North Sinai Governorate on November 24, 2017.

Could Saudi Meddling Unite the Lebanese?

11.24.17

By HALA AL-HARIRI “In this room, the honorable Bchara El Khoury, President of the Republic of Lebanon, was arrested from November 11 until November 22, 1943.” This is written on a plaque on the wall of The Rashaya Citadel, also known as the Citadel of Independence. Another plaque says the same for the honorable Prime Minister Riad […]

Prince Turki al Faisal at the Munich Security Conference in 2014. Photo by Marc Muller.

Prince Turki Al Faisal tries to project Saudi unity during a time of upheaval

11.15.17

Prince Turki al Faisal spoke at the Arab Conference at Harvard on November 10th, insisting that Saudi Arabia stood united, even during a time of major political upheavals in the kingdom.

Podcast: Saudi’s future investment initiative and the Balfour Declaration’s centennial anniversary

11.8.17

Middle East Weekly, JMEPP’s news podcast, goes behind the headlines on the region, explaining and analyzing the most pressing issues of the week.

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