In order to maintain their power and increase their internal and external power, the rulers of Saudi Arabia have learned one thing well and are working carefully: "the systematic compatibility of the government with power-making processes."
The average of the new generation in Saudi Arabia has relatively favorable material facilities; They travel abroad, have a university education, their level of awareness has increased, have gone beyond the limitations of Wahhabi ideology and accepted religious pluralism. The government has gradually helped to isolate Wahhabism. Naturally, this generation should be against the closed and exclusive ruling of a family in the third millennium AD, or at least complain about the society not participating in the power structure and demand democratic reforms from the government. However, according to detailed research, the young generation’s level of satisfaction with the Saudi government, especially with the reforms of Bin Salman, has increased. I call this fact “the Saudi paradox”, and I see the understanding of this paradox in the "systematic compatibility of the government with power-making processes".
The rulers of Saudi Arabia increase their prestige and power at the domestic and foreign levels on three levels and with three processes:
- In compliance with the process of secularizing the government in Islamic societies, the Saudi government has created an image of favorable and efficient governance at the national level. The aftershocks of three major events, including the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the incident of September 11, 2001, and the quasi-revolutions of 2010, caused Islamic societies to change their view of the government. During these three decades, "ideal governance with the function of security and prosperity" was defined in Islamic societies as an indicator of an ideal government and became a powerful trend, in such a way that people's concern in the average Islamic countries, especially in Arab countries, is not democracy and sharing in political power. The majority of people in many Islamic countries only expect their respective governments to provide them with security and prosperity, even if political power is concentrated in one family from generation to generation. The government of Saudi Arabia has found the discourse of good governance in line with its survival and in addition to promoting this discourse, it has created the good governance in the Saudi society.
- At the regional level, especially after the September 11 incident and the Arab quasi-revolutions, the "regional stability trend" became a dominant discourse at the level of nations and governments. This trend has increased especially after America's withdrawal from Afghanistan and America's clear desire to reduce its physical presence in the region. Small governments in the region expect regional powers such as Iran, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia to cooperate with each other to manage the possible instability caused by the reduction of America's presence in the region. In the meantime, the Saudi government, by welcoming the de-escalation with Iran and the will to increase political and economic cooperation with Turkey, is trying to portray Saudi Arabia as an anchor of regional stability and align itself with this regional trend. At the same time, regional stability is the most important need of Saudi Arabia in the current situation to advance the domestic and foreign policies of this country.
- At the international level, the most important concern of the international community is the trend of political instability until 2030 at the international and regional levels, which is the concern of many countries. Actors who act and pay to reduce the trend or manage political instabilities at the international and regional levels increase their international prestige and buy respect from the international community.
However, at the regional level, the Saudi government has decided to resolve the crisis in Yemen, even at the price of retreating from past political positions, so that in addition to saving itself from the Yemeni quagmire, it benefits from the political advantages of resolving this crisis in the long term. At the international level, by adopting a neutral stance towards the war in Ukraine and gaining the trust of the parties, and possibly by promising to rebuild part of the ruins of Ukraine and helping Russia to bypass the sanctions (of course, with the green light from Washington to Riyadh), it intends to present a new image of its government at the international level via holding the Jeddah meeting.
Therefore, regardless of whether this meeting will have a result or not, holding it in Jeddah will greatly increase the credibility of the Saudi government internationally. Let’s compare the image of Saudi Arabia that was created worldwide after the September 11 incident and the brutal murder of Khashoggi, and the image that Saudi Arabia is currently rebuilding. By adapting itself to the national, regional and international power-making trends, Saudi Arabia intends to increase its prestige at the level of governments and nations and convey to the world an image of a desirable kingdom ruling in the third millennium.
Seyed Mohammad Hosseini, senior expert at the Institute for Political and International Studies
(The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the IPIS)