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Saudi Arabia’s Islamist-liberal divide

The Saudi regime needs to tend to internal divisions in the kingdom and scale back its interventionism in the region to improve its prospects for long-term stability.
The residence of the military commander of the Houthi militant group, Abdullah Yahya al Hakim, is seen after an airstrike destroyed it in Sanaa April 28, 2015. Saudi-led aircraft pounded Iran-allied Houthi militiamen and rebel army units on Monday, dashing hopes for a pause in fighting to let aid in as relief officials warned of a catastrophic humanitarian crisis. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah - RTX1AM7D

After two direct military interventions, one in Bahrain in 2011 and one began in Yemen last month, the Saudi regime appears somehow immune to destabilization in a region torn by conflict and war. The current resilience of the Saudi monarchy variably appears to be a function of the redistributive power of an oil-rich regime, with satisfaction among Saudis with their leadership and external support guaranteed by its Western allies, especially the United States, but there are more relevant factors involved. The regime is currently sustained by the benefits of domestic divisions and regional turmoil.

Saudi society is fragmented, divided along ideological lines that inhibit any quest for national demands for political change and real mobilization. Islamists and liberals trumpet their causes by disagreeing on almost everything from human rights to women driving and their inclusion in state institutions, such as the consultative council.

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