mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
Saudi Sits Out The Arab Spring

A draft law being considered by the Saudi government proposes tight new restrictions and harsh penalties on civil dissent. The law is serious: a minimum of ten years in prison for criticizing the King. “Endangering…national unity”, “halting the basic law or some of its articles”, or “harming the reputation of the state or its position” become terrorist crimes.

The Arab Spring has deepened the Saudi monarchy’s determination to chart its own course no matter what human rights activists want.   In general, the traditional monarchies are holding up better than the republics; royals can draw on dynastic loyalty and long experience balancing factions and tribes.  The Saudis of course are also well supplied with cash.  Their strategy is to offer small carrots like raising salaries for government employees while strengthening the security system to make it extremely difficult for protest movements to gain traction.

For now, it seems to be working.

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