Saudi Arabia

country in West Asia

Saudi Arabia, officially known as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, is the largest Arab state in Western Asia by land area (approximately 2,150,000 km2 [830,000 sq mi]), constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest geographically in the Arab world. Politically, Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy led by King Salman as head of state and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman as head of government. It is one of the world's leading producers and exporters of oil. It also contains the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina. Its official religion is Islam.

Saudi Arabia is the heart of the Muslim world. ~ Abul A'la Maududi



Alphabetized by author
Even if all the Muslim countries in the world were steeped in inequity and laxity it would not cause as much harm to the cause of Islam, as it would if, God forbid, Saudi Arabia starts showing these trends. ~ Abul A'la Maududi
Saudi Arabia has become a firm friend of the United States. As its influence dramatically expands in the world, Saudi Arabia has been not only a firm supporter of the peace process but a moderating and conciliatory force on a wide range of global issues. ~ Jimmy Carter
  • We have to all realise that criticising some phenomena in our home country does not equate to hating it, wishing evil upon it nor is it an attempt to shake its balance, it's the total opposite. Any Saudi citizen might be upset by some incidents that occur in the Kingdom, but that is only a direct sign of one's interest in the betterment of one's own country and one's hope to see Saudi Arabia as a global leader.
  • If you go to school in Saudi Arabia, what do you learn about people who are not followers of Wahhabi, of the prophet? The religious curriculum in Saudi Arabia teaches you that people are basically two sides: Salafis [Wahhabis], who are the winners, the chosen ones, who will go to heaven, and the rest. The rest are Muslims and Christians and Jews and others. Even muslims of other sects, all of these people are not accepted by Salafi as Muslims. As I said, "claimant to Islam." And all of these people are supposed to be hated, to be persecuted, even killed. And we have several clergy -- not one Salafi clergy -- who have said that against the Shi'a and against the other Muslims. And they have done it in Algeria, in Afghanistan. This is the same ideology. They just have the same opportunity. They did it in Algeria and Afghanistan, and now New York.
  • One of the most devout and insular countries in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia has emerged from being an underdeveloped desert kingdom to become one of the wealthiest nations in the region thanks to vast oil resources.

    But its rulers face the delicate task of responding to pressure for reform while combating a growing problem of extremist violence.

  • Saudi Arabia has become a firm friend of the United States. As its influence dramatically expands in the world, Saudi Arabia has been not only a firm supporter of the peace process but a moderating and conciliatory force on a wide range of global issues.
    • Jimmy Carter, Letter to Members of Congress on Middle East Arms Sales (12 May 1978).
  • And, once and for all, the Saudis, the Qataris, and others need to stop their citizens from directly funding extremist organizations, as well as schools and mosques around the world that have set too many young people on a path toward radicalization. When it comes to blocking terrorist recruitment, we have to identify the hotspots—the specific neighborhoods and villages, the prisons and schools—where recruitment happens in clusters.
  • I think that the Saudis have a multiple level of responsibilities, first and foremost, stopping their own citizens from continuing the financing for extremists. And, you know, Saudi financing is still a major source of revenue for terrorist groups inside Syria, inside Iraq elsewhere.
  • I know that the — that Saudi individuals have certainly funded other related terrorist groups over time and also exported a lot of Wahhabi radicalism by kicking out or sending out imams and teachers to set up schools and mosques to preach that particularly harsh brand of Islam. So the Saudis have a lot that they can do to both stop and then to help.
  • One guy said, "I'm from Saudi Arabia and I'm proud of my country." Well, good for you, but forgive me for asking why. If you live in Saudi Arabia, what on Earth have you got to be proud of? If you couldn't dig money straight out of the ground, you'd all be starving. The only thing your country has to offer the world is oil. Well, it's not the only thing, but we don't need any sand, and we're all up to here with Jihad, thanks very much.
  • [Saudi Arabia] is the Keeper of the Two Holy Cities, giving her an Islamic orientation of responsibility; she is the counsellor of the Arab world, due to her religious standing, her wealth, and her domestic stability and cohesion.
  • Seductive mirages of progress notwithstanding, nowhere in the world is apartheid practiced with more cruelty and finality than in Saudi Arabia. Of course, it is women who are locked in and kept out, exiled to invisibility and object powerlessness within their own country. It is women who are degraded systematically from birth to early death, utterly and total and without exception deprived of freedom. It is women who are sold into marriage or concubinage, often before puberty; killed if their hymens are not intact on the wedding night; kept confined, ignorant, pregnant, poor, without choice or recourse. It is women who are raped and beaten with full sanction of the law. It is women who cannot own property or work for a living or determine in any way the circumstances of their own lives. It is women who are subject to a despotism that knows no restraint. Women, locked out and locked in. Mr Carter, enchanted with his good friends, the Saudis. Mr Carter, a sincere advocate of human rights. Sometimes even a feminist with a realistic knowledge of male hypocrisy and a strong stomach cannot believe the world she lives in.
  • From Saudi Arabia, Wahhabi mosques are financed throughout the world.
  • We must make it clear to the Saudis that the time of looking the other way is over.
  • We will prevent Saudi help in the building or financing of mosques in Germany where Wahhabi ideas are to be disseminated.
    • German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said to Welt am Sonntag newspaper. (December 6, 2015) [3]
  • The discovery of oil in 1938 launched the transformation of a mostly desert kingdom into a modern country. The country was barely six years old and its founder, King Abdelaziz ibn Saud, was already courted by world powers. In 1945, Franklin D. Roosevelt struck a deal with the Saudi monarch, sitting aboard the USS Quincy on the Great Bitter Lake. The two men agreed that Saudi Arabia would provide America with unimpeded access to exploit the oil, in exchange for military protection and support. The price of a barrel was low for years, the revenues limited, but it was more than enough to build a country from scratch, and by the late 1960s a wave of construction was under way across the kingdom. There was no local expertise, but plenty of money to hire help. Then, in the fall of 1973, the price of oil quadrupled almost overnight from $3 to $12—roughly the equivalent of $50 in 2019. That October, Egypt and Syria had gone to war against Israel, hoping to regain land lost in the Six-Day War of 1967. Oil-producing Arab countries declared an embargo on exports to the United States and other countries that supported Israel in the conflict. Saudi Arabia was reluctant to undermine its alliance with the US but ultimately led the charge and reaped the benefits: Arab hearts filled with pride, briefly grateful to the kingdom for standing up to the West and Israel—a small consolation for past humiliations. Most important, the young country was now awash with cash as billions of dollars flooded the kingdom. Between 1970 and 1974, Saudi Arabia’s oil revenues ballooned from $1.2 billion to $22.5 billion.
    • Kim Ghattas, Black Wave : Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the Forty-Year Rivalry that Unraveled Culture, Religion, and Collective Memory in the Middle East (2020)
  • In Saudi Arabia, awareness of what the year 1979 had meant for the kingdom was not as obvious. Juhayman’s siege of the Holy Mosque in Mecca that year, though shocking, had not been a countrywide event, and the kingdom excels—then as today—at camouflaging internal dissent. Awash with cash during the 1980s, Saudis could travel anywhere to go to the cinema and the theater or to sit in cafés in Paris if they wanted to escape the darkness engulfing their country. There was no clear turning point to stand against; there were many smaller ones. But now their children want to know why. Why hadn’t their parents protested when the music was silenced, when the male guardianship system was tightened, when the religious police started cracking their whips in public malls? How could they have let this happen without a word? This generation of Saudis do not know that Iranians are asking the same questions about 1979; nor do Iranians know that some in Saudi Arabia are fueled by similar feelings of betrayal. Iran and Saudi Arabia are echoing each other, once more, in subtle ways. There was a brief moment in 2018 when it looked as though the two foes were going to compete to undo the damage of 1979: the Saudis from the top down, thanks to a crown prince opening up his country to the twenty-first century; and the Iranian people, thanks to their own determination to chip away at the system. Instead, the competition continued to be a race to the bottom, as though nothing and nobody was equipped to dissuade the leadership of either country from its own worst instincts. Syria, Yemen, and Iraq paid the price, as did those who raised their voices against their respective leaders in Iran and Saudi Arabia. The most dangerous opponents were those who spoke softly and who presented the most credible alternative to the absolutism of the leaders, such as Jamal Khashoggi. Or Nasrin Sotoudeh, an Iranian human rights lawyer sentenced to thirty-eight years in jail and 148 lashes for defending the women campaigning against the mandatory veil.
    • Kim Ghattas, Black Wave : Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the Forty-Year Rivalry that Unraveled Culture, Religion, and Collective Memory in the Middle East (2020)

The Saudis can't rein in Islamic State. They lost control of global Salafism long ago. (2016)


F. Gregory Gause III, The Saudis can't rein in Islamic State. They lost control of global Salafism long ago. Los Angeles Times (July 19, 2016)

  • Can a state be both the target of Islamist extremists and responsible for their actions? The attacks on July 4 in three Saudi Arabian cities, almost certainly perpetrated by adherents of Islamic State, have once again raised this question for drive-by analysts. They point out that the official interpretation of Islam in Saudi Arabia, which outsiders refer to as Wahhabism and Saudis refer to as Salafism, shares many elements with extremist ideology. Then they argue that Saudi efforts to proselytize Salafism played a role in the development of the global jihadist movement, and that the Saudis thus bear a special responsibility to rein in their support for Muslim institutions outside their borders and to moderate their practice of Islam at home. The implication is that if the Saudis would only change their behavior, the threat represented by the radicals would be greatly reduced.
  • What had been a largely apolitical phenomenon of Muslims emulating Saudi Wahhabism in their personal lives became, for part of the global Salafi movement, an element of their political identity.
  • Global Salafism is now unmoored from its Saudi origins.
  • The Saudis can also contribute to the ideological fight against Salafi jihadism, but not in the way most Western liberals think. The admonition for “tolerance” has much to recommend it as Saudi leaders think a long term, but the more immediate task is a to convince those attracted to Salafism that the violent path is, as the Saudi clerics say, “deviant.” Liberal “reforms” in Saudi Arabia are not going to convince pious Salafis that their interpretation of Islam is incorrect. Rather, the Saudis have to redouble their efforts to use the domestic and international institutions of Islam that they created and funded to convince believers that Salafi Islam itself prohibits the acts of violence perpetrated in its name.
  • In Saudi Arabia, women can’t vote, run for public office, or drive cars. Women are routinely jailed and beaten for merely being in the presence of a man not related to them. The Saudi version of Dr. Phil provides televised lessons to men on how to properly beat their wives.
  • Saudi Arabia is the heart of the Muslim world … even if all the Muslim countries in the world were steeped in inequity and laxity it would not cause as much harm to the cause of Islam, as it would if, God forbid, Saudi Arabia starts showing these trends ...
    • Abul A'la Maududi, quoted in Asaf Hussain, Islamic movements in Egypt, Pakistan, and Iran (Mansell Pub., 1983), p. 72.
  • After the US came to the rescue of Israel during the Yom Kippur War of October 1973, Saudi Arabia used oil to reset global politics. Angered by Israeli’s successful counterattack and push into Arab territory, Riyadh announced a complete oil embargo against the US. To ensure that Washington felt economic pain even if oil slipped in through the back door, Saudi Arabia – followed by the OPEC cartel which it dominated – cut production ultimately by 25 per cent, and between September 1973 and March 1974 the oil price quadrupled. Sheikh Yamani, the Saudi Arabian oil minister, declared: ‘What we want is a complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from occupied Arab territories and then you will have the oil.’ The Saudis thus launched what became known as the ‘oil weapon’. Henry Kissinger, US secretary of state, referred to these démarches as ‘political blackmail’ and as the ‘most important of our century’. The Saudi oil minister spelled out the geopolitical implications by referring to a ‘new type of relationship’ where ‘you have to adjust yourself to the new circumstances’. The US secretary of state adjusted, Israel retreated back east of the Suez Canal and the embargo was lifted, but global politics would never be the same again. Saudi Arabia, as the swing producer, had demonstrated that it possessed the power to drive up inflation and break economies, regardless of politics in the West. That threat has been Saudi Arabia’s entry pass to the global political stage, and it is still there today, but that entry pass is only valid as long as Riyadh is the swing producer. It was the first time that a group of relatively weak states had provoked such dramatic changes in the lives of the vast majority of people on the planet. The consequence eventually was a world economic crisis, but the raising of the oil price was only one factor. The US had abandoned the gold standard in 1971, and as a consequence the Bretton Woods system collapsed. Thereby the long period of economic growth in the developed world ended. In West Germany driving was banned on Sundays, and the autobahn was given over to pedestrians and cyclists. GDP there fell by 1.5 per cent, and unemployment climbed above one million.
    • Martin McCauley, The Cold War 1949-2016 (2017)
  • The Saudis have never shown any respect for human rights, either now or in the past. Even a petty burglar faces having one of his hands chopped off. The liberal press in America prefers to ignore all this, although they don't hesitate to blacken the reputation of Iran.
  • The West’s medieval client, Saudi Arabia – to which the US and Britain sell billions of dollars’ worth of arms – is at present destroying Yemen, a country so poor that in the best of times, half the children are malnourished. Look on YouTube and you will see the kind of massive bombs – “our” bombs – that the Saudis use against dirt-poor villages, and against weddings, and funerals. The explosions look like small atomic bombs. The bomb aimers in Saudi Arabia work side-by-side with British officers. This fact is not on the evening news.
  • The formula that food is the way to derive peace actually should be more properly understood in reverse. The answer to my question of why we have so many hungry people on the planet when there is no need for that is that it is a deliberate decision that some human beings make in order to appropriate the resources of others, or, as in the case of one of the hot spots on the planet right now for hunger, which is Yemen, it was a deliberate strategy to disrupt the food system specifically to weaken the country in the pursuit of the war between proxies, Saudi Arabia and Iran. And so, it’s important to remember that hunger does not always happen because of natural disasters, which is a mental model that most of us fall back upon; it is often the result of things that we actually do to each other deliberately.
  • I love the Saudis. Many are in this building. They make a billion dollars a day. Whenever they have problems, we send over the ships. We say “we’re gonna protect.” What are we doing? They’ve got nothing but money... Saudi Arabia without us is gone. They're gone... Saudi Arabia is in big, big trouble. Now, thanks to fracking and other things, the oil is all over the place. And I used to say it, there are ships at sea, and this was during the worst crisis, that were loaded up with oil, and the cartel kept the price up, because, again, they were smarter than our leaders. They were smarter than our leaders.
  • The case of Saudi Arabia highlights the difficulties that democracies face in trying to support freedom, human rights, and democracy. King Abdullah heads a royal family that completely controls Saudi society. Thanks to the fact that they own the world's largest reserves of oil, they are virtually immune from international criticism and they do not bother to hold even fake national elections. By law, all Saudi citizens must be Muslims. It is illegal for Saudis to follow a different religion. A Saudi woman cannot appear in public with a man who is not a relative. Women are required to completely cover their bodies in public and they must wear veils. Some Saudi women have expressed satisfaction with the restrictions in the country. However, the strict suppression of women is not voluntary, and Saudi women who would like to live a freer life are not allowed to do so. King Abdullah and his relatives follow an intolerant version of Islam known in the West as Wahhabism. Since 1975, the Saudi royal family has spent more than $70 billion financing mosques and Islamic centers worldwide, including more than $300 million in the United States, where most Muslims studying in Arabic use Saudi textbooks, some of which are virulently anti-Christian and anti-Jewish. If Saudi Arabia did not control so much oil, King Abdullah and the Saudi royal family would be treated just as much as pariahs as are Than Shwe and the Burmese generals.
    • David Wallechinsky, Tyrants: The World's 20 Worst Living Dictators (2006), p. 2

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