Saudi Arabia, the Gulf Cooperation Council, and the Trump Administration: Stability or Upheaval?
Tensions are mounting among members of the Gulf Cooperation Council and, at the same time, Saudi Arabia has found itself at the center of a controversy over its recent succession restructuring. While the Trump administration is keen to restore Saudi Arabia to its traditional key position in Middle East policy, the Kingdom is facing a host of serious issues, domestic and foreign. Is Saudi Arabia headed for stability or turmoil? When King Salman named his son, Mohammed Bin Salman, crown prince in June, Riyadh seemed to be ensuring a degree of political stability not seen in the kingdom perhaps since its founding. However, a recent flood of news stories suggests that the transition was not as smooth as initially portrayed, with the younger Mohammed Bin Salman forcing out his 57-year-old cousin, Mohammed Bin Nayef, who is well respected at home and here in the United States. Although Mohammed Bin Salman has already begun to implement his vision of a Saudi future keyed to the rising generation, there is continued conflict with Iran and its proxies both in Syria and, more vital to Saudi interests, across the border in Yemen. Separately, the unresolved conflict with Qatar presents trouble closer to home. A fellow member of the GCC, Qatar has frequently played the spoiler with Saudi Arabia by sheltering and supporting Islamic extremists and cozying up to Iran. The Trump administration needs a stable Gulf region to sustain and advance American interests and those of its allies. What does the future of the region hold for Saudi Arabia and the United States? What role should the Trump administration be playing with its regional partners in the GCC? On July 25, Hudson hosted a timely lunchtime panel discussion on these important issues. Panelists included Mohammed Alyahya, Fatimah S. Baeshen, and Hudson Adjunct Fellow Michael Pregent. Hudson Senior Fellow Lee Smith moderated the conversation.
Fatimah Baeshen, Mohammed Khalid Alyahya (Atlantic Council), and Michael Pregent (Hudson Institute), discuss the history and progression of the Qatar-Boycott Quartet rift, as well as Iran’s financing of terrorism, and US strategy toward Qatar and Iran. The three panelists also analyze social and economic reform in Saudi Arabia, specifically Vision 2030, as well as debates over freedom of expression, women’s empowerment, and education.