13 March 2016
There has long been debate about the longevity of the Saudi ruling family. My initial conclusion when I first visited Saudi Arabia exactly 40 years ago was: This can’t last.
I would still maintain it cannot last even if my timeline has changed, given that the Saudi monarchy obviously has far greater resilience than I initially gave it credit for. One major reason for the doubts about the Al Sauds’ viability is obviously the Faustian bargain they made with the Wahhabis, proponents of a puritan, intolerant, discriminatory, anti-pluralistic interpretation of Islam. It is a bargain that has produced the single largest dedicated public diplomacy campaign in history. Estimates of Saudi spending on the funding of Muslim cultural institutions across the globe and the forging of close ties to non-Wahhabi Muslim leaders and intelligence agencies in various Muslim nations that have bought into significant elements of the Wahhabi world view amount to up to US$100 billion (S$1.37 billion).
The campaign is an issue that I have looked at since I first visited the kingdom, on numerous subsequent visits, when I lived in Saudi Arabia in the wake of 9/11, and during a 41/2-year court battle that I won in 2006 in the British House of Lords. It is an issue that I am now writing a book about that looks at the fallout of the campaign in four Asian, one African and two European countries.
James Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies where his focus is the Middle East and North Africa.
This is an edited excerpt of his lecture at the Institute of South Asian Studies on March 2.
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Last updated on 15/03/2016