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Nervous Riyadh anxious about Algiers

The Saudi Kingdom watches cautiously as Algerian protesters bring back the 2019 version of the Arab Spring to demand an open political system.
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets with Algerian Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia in Algiers, Algeria December 2, 2018.  Picture taken December 2, 2018. Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. - RC11742D93D0

The Saudis are quietly watching developments in Algeria with great concern that the Arab Spring is coming back. They are worried about the implications of an increasingly incapacitated, elderly leader being ousted by popular demonstrations and demands for a more open political system — both anathemas to the Saudi absolute monarchy.

The kingdom was terrified by the Arab Spring in 2011 and offered Tunisia’s ousted president exile; he’s still there. It sent troops into Bahrain to stop the reform movement against the king; they are still there. The Saudis were horrified by the removal of Hosni Mubarak and spent a small fortune to help the army take power. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi had been the Egyptian defense attache in Riyadh. He was the kingdom’s man, and he still is.

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