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The socio-political situation in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the role of external and internal factors in its formation
Material posted: Publication date: 14-11-2019
The development of the situation in Saudi Arabia and around this Kingdom for the last time remains unstable. This is due to the differences within the Saudi political elite due to external, internal and military policy, questions of succession, the deterioration of relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and the fall in oil prices. In General, it should be noted that the development and dynamics of socio-political situation in this country is under the influence of both internal and external factors the relationship of which determines trends in the formation of the situation one way or the other sides of the development.

In the special studies topic of study socio-political environment (situation) is always relevant because of the need for timely analysis and assessment of certain processes taking place in foreign countries. Terminology the socio-political situation is interpreted as a system of four interrelated components: society, politics, situation (situation) and country. A source of SPO – the interaction of society and government. The socio-political situation – one of the components of the current situation in the country. Along with this, considering approaches to the concept of "factor" which is defined as the reason, the driving force of any process, phenomenon that determines the nature and source of influence on one or another object, as well as having some importance for its functioning, in the particular circumstances it is of particular research interest. All this is also fully applicable to the analysis of the state of the socio-political situation in foreign countries. [1]

Possessing huge oil reserves (about 268 billion barrels), and having an armed forces equipped with modern weapons and military technology, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) is one of the most influential players in the middle East and on the world stage. The state is faced with a complex socio-political problems and threats to national security. One of the most priority directions of internal policy is the formation of a new economic model, designed to diversify the sources of income of the state. Saudi society must be transformed into a more dynamic and open system. This concept is implemented in the national programme, the Vision 2030 (Vision 2030), which became the core of the next stage of reform of the Kingdom.

KSA, becoming one of the world's largest energy exporters, has an impact on the complicated situation in the region, has the financial and ideological levers of influence on the entire Arab-Muslim world, and the world energy market. Now the Kingdom is undergoing reform, which should be the final step on the path of transformation of the KSA from the "raw giant" in non-industrialized state, and make Saudi Arabia the undisputed leader in the Muslim world. The success of the programme Vision 2030 depends on overcoming regional challenges, which include: the confrontation with Iran, the armed conflict in Yemen, a deep crisis in relations with Qatar. It is also necessary to take into account a complex internal socio-political contradictions, such as: the struggle for power within the ruling elite, the privatization of the largest state Corporation Saudi Arabia Saudi Aramco, as well as the impact of migration.

Thus, if we consider as the object impacted by a variety of factors, and changing under their influence the process of development of the socio-political situation in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, it is necessary to consider a very wide range of different relationships and characteristics. In turn, the state of development of the socio-political situation in Saudi Arabia is influenced by both external and internal factors.

External factors. The basis of the foreign policy strategy of Saudi Arabia is the vision of the ruling dynasty of al-Saud and the religious elite of the situation in the international arena. Their representations are reduced to the necessity of maintaining the authority of the Kingdom in the Muslim world, as well as ensuring the national interests of the KSA. Pragmatism, combined with ideological and religious motives creates the uniqueness of the foreign policy thinking of political and military leadership of Saudi Arabia. The main tool of foreign policy in the region for Saudi Arabia armed forces of the state. According to the military program of the Kingdom, the country's Armed forces obey the King, and the powers of management by the Minister of defense, which is currently crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. National armed forces guarantee the sovereignty, security, unity, development and stability of the state, guarding the main shrines of Islam (Mecca, Medina), and the believers performing Hajj. [2] the army of the CSA is one of the best-equipped in technical terms, however, the participation of troops in Saudi Arabia in the fighting in Yemen showed low combat training, the lack of coherence and the necessary level of motivation of soldiers of all arms and services. Nevertheless, the KSA is 3rd in the world in military expenditures (69,4 billion dollars) [3]. Saudi Arabia fully imports military equipment for its own army. Traditionally the main supplier of weapons are USA (over 61%), some samples VST also put France and China. Saudi Arabia, with modern weapons and military equipment, with significant qualitative and quantitative superiority over neighbouring countries, is the most militarized country of the Arabian Peninsula. Significant military spending impedes socio-economic development of the Kingdom. The program, Vision 2030 does not involve a reduction in military spending, but instead increase them.

Currently, Riyadh is facing many regional challenges, forcing the Royal family to concentrate considerable resources to overcome them. The main source of tension in the region is the Iran-Saudi conflict, which is based on a whole range of contradictions, including the quest for domination in the Islamic world, the collision of two major trends in Islam – Shia and Sunni. The confrontation between Saudi Arabia and Iran threatens the entire region, especially in the case of acquisition by these States of nuclear weapons by analogy with India and Pakistan. The most serious military conflict in the Arabian Peninsula has become a civil war in Yemen, which involved the coalition forces of the States of the GCC, led by KSA. Shiite rebels (Huthis) with the 2014 control strategically important areas of the country (mainly the South-West of the Arabian Peninsula). In addition, the rebels in Yemen are under the protection of Tehran, providing them with information, as well as various weaponry.

Permanent civil war in Yemen at the moment is in positional phase. The rapid advance of the Shia (Pro-Iranian) armed forces of the movement "Ansar Allah" (Houthis) has stopped operating and in some areas they even had to fall back. Their opponents — remained loyal to President Hadi on the part of the armed forces and a coalition of Arab States also do not show the ability to take decisive change of the situation in their favor. Sluggish combat operations are conducted North of the Houthis controlled the Yemeni capital Sanaa, but a serious move, one side or the other is not fixed. [4]

However, this war has seriously undermined the international authority of the CSA, as the low level of professionalism and motivation in the Saudi military has led to numerous casualties among coalition troops. If we consider this problem from the standpoint of being implemented in KSA Vision 2030, it can be argued that foreign investors are afraid to invest in the facility, which may be a target for tactical missiles from Yemen. There were also attempts to destabilize the political situation in Bahrain, the majority of the population adheres to the Shia currents and is also under the influence of Iran.

The conflict with Qatar, the diplomatic relations which were severed in the spring of 2017, are also a source of tension in the region. The leadership of Qatar led by the Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani was accused of supporting international terrorism, interference in the Affairs of other Arab States, and to establish an informal, but friendly relations with Iran. The political rhetoric hides the obvious desire of the UAE to inflict maximum damage to its main rival in the region, with the support of king Salman al Saud, driving Qatar in isolation. At the same time the regime of the Saudis for a long time has provided financial support to terrorist organizations operating in the North Caucasus, in Afghanistan, the opposition in Syria and Iraq. At the diplomatic level from sources from the UAE received information to the king about the hostile actions and intentions on the part of Qatar. Further complicating relations between KSA and Qatar rule out the possibility of cooperation and worsens the investment climate in the region. Funding of radical Islamist groups, import new models of weapons also hampered the social and political development of the country, and has created a negative image of the state. It can be concluded that the existing political regime, the leading role which belongs to the Royal family, has serious ambitions aimed at domination first in the Arabian Peninsula, and later throughout the Arab-Muslim world. It is this shedding of foreign policy creates the preconditions for the escalation of tension in the region, which reduces its economic attractiveness.

The internal factors. Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy with elements of theocracy. All power and economic assets are concentrated in the hands of the Royal family, had greater legal force than the Royal decree has only the Basic law of government based on Sharia law. It defines the polity of the country. The main specificity of public administration KSA is a significant influence of religious elites on political processes. Currently the head of the Executive and the legislature is king Salman bin Abdul-Aziz al Saud dynasty the Saudi and the Council of Ministers and the consultative Council, which also determines the king. Mostly there are members of the Royal family. King Salman continued the policy of his predecessors, aimed at strengthening the power of the monarch and his family. So, the new Governor in 2015, reformatted agencies responsible for policymaking in different areas, abolishing the 12 Advisory bodies, among them was the Council for national security and the Supreme Council for oil. He established two new councils: political Affairs and security and on the economy and development, in which the most important is the role of the environment, Mohammed bin Salman. [5] relatives of the king also own the major economic assets of the state, as owners of the largest state corporations Saudi Aramco. State capitalism, generated by the absolute monarchical power, not only prevents the development of small and medium-sized businesses, but also, in the theocratic form in which it exists in Saudi Arabia, reduces the investment attractiveness of the country. Sharia law, on which rests political power KSA, has transformed the Saudi society in a fairly closed social system. To fix the current state of Affairs seeks crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The main efforts of the crown Prince aimed at the accumulation of financial resources of the state for implementation of all projects under the Vision 2030, as well as attracting foreign direct investment (FDI). Now Saudi Arabia has a number of areas for investment in addition to the oil industry. For example, the port in Jeddah, being the largest marine facility in Saudi Arabia, serves as an important logistics hub. However, the main source of the Kingdom's exports are still the petroleum products. So, the trade volume between China and KSA for 2015 amounted to 51.7 billion dollars, while Saudi Arabia supplied petroleum products for the sum over 30 billion dollars. [6] In such circumstances, the Kingdom is still far more adapted to the conditions of competitiveness of the Gulf States like Kuwait or the UAE.

Significant impact on the socio-political situation in Saudi Arabia have changes in the structure of ethno-religious composition of the country. The total population of Saudi Arabia is 34 398 917 people. About 30% of them are immigrant workers. Most of them come from Muslim countries, but there are also representatives of other religions. Nationally, in KSA live 1.8 million Indians, 1.5 million immigrants from Bangladesh, 1.4 million Filipinos, 1.23 million Pakistanis, 1 million Egyptians, Palestinians 0.25, 0.15 Lebanese, and citizens of Yemen, Lebanon, Sri Lanka and Eritrea [7]. Working conditions for the majority of foreigners are very different from conditions in neighbouring UAE or Kuwait. Arrived immigrants, regardless of nationality or level of professionalism are required to comply with Sharia law, even if you have no relation to Islam. The most common punishment is deportation. In addition, the country lacks a freedom of speech and religion, known cases of prosecution of foreigners on suspicion of anti-monarchist activities. Thus, it can be concluded that to ensure sustainable socio-economic development of Saudi Arabia, the authorities have to go on the full liberalization of society, which is practically impossible in the conditions of absolute monarchy in Saudi model. Changes in legislation requires a departure from the dogmas of Islam, the weakening of centralized Royal power. Despite the desire for progress in the economy nor king Salman al Saud, nor the heir to the throne Mohammed will not allow the violation of the fundamental foundations of statehood of Saudi Arabia. According to the views of the military-political leadership of the country, CSA is the core of the Arab-Muslim world, so the Royal family has a responsibility to protect the ideals of Islam throughout the world, but primarily in its territory.

Deserves special attention the activities of the heir to the throne of Mohammed Ibn Salman al Saud. In 34 years he has concentrated almost all power in the country in their hands. Currently he holds the position of second Deputy Prime Minister, head of the defense Ministry and the High Committee for economy, head of the Royal court. Prince Mohammed in the last 2 years on behalf of king manages foreign policy - takes part in international conferences, summits, bilateral talks at the highest level. So, in February 2019 that Mohammed visited a number of States, economic relations with which are for Saudi Arabia is very important: Pakistan, India, China. The rapid political rise of the young Prince is accompanied by a desire to strengthen personal authority. Leadership in the power structures of the Kingdom to prevent any attempts of opposition groups infringe on the personal authority of the monarch in the country.

The current restructuring of the economy are the search for alternative sources of energy. Specifics of natural and climatic conditions forced the authorities to implement the newest technologies for energy conversion. The head of the Committee for renewable energy chamber of Commerce and industry of Saudi Arabia Abdurrahman al-Ibrahim said the Kingdom plans to invest about 80 billion dollars in the development of various sectors of renewable energy.

These plans are part of the strategic concept Vision-2030 that aims to diversify the economy of Saudi Arabia. In the framework of the implementation of plans for the development of renewable energy, the KSA plans to collaborate with leading technological companies from US, EU, China and Russia, which, according to the Saudi leadership, will enable you to import the latest technologies in the country [8].

Despite the desire to create a competitive, diversified model of economic development, the priority for the Kingdom remain the issues of foreign policy and protection of domestic order, maintenance of the authority of the monarchy. A striking proof is the increase of the military budget of the country in 2018 compared to 2017 ($56 billion – 2018 – 10% more than in 2017) a Huge amount of money the state spends on the import of modern weapons. In Germany the Ministry of defense of KSA ordered weapons worth around 417 euros. Mainly importing military equipment, Saudi Arabia gradually creates its own defence holding, which is also stated in Vision.

The priority issue is the extent of state involvement and regulation of the economy. The specific stage of reform in Saudi Arabia is the desire of a powerful monarchical clan, with the strongest administrative resource actually to create a powerful self-regulating private sector. The main task of the state is to protect the rights and liberties of small and medium business, as well as the security of foreign investment. The difficulty lies the need for leadership of Saudi Arabia to give their assets.

Vision-2030. The national Vision 2030 is not just a reform in Economics, and a fundamental change of its functioning principles, the main of which are the diversification of sources of income, increasing the investment attractiveness of the state, a complete departure from petroleum dependence, optimization of state regulation of economy and improving the quality of life in the Kingdom. The catalyst for this programme was the budget deficit in 2016, which amounted to 326.2 billion riyals ($87 billion) [9] the Main reason for these losses the Saudi budget steel consumption caused by the war in Yemen. However, awareness of the need for restructuring the economy of the state was nurtured by the king even before the crisis of 2016 In may 2015 during business meetings in Jeddah with representatives of chambers of Commerce, heads of banks Salman al Saud, expressing the point of view of the Board on economy and development, proposed a draft program of economic reform that included the following: cooperation with private enterprise, including foreign, development of small and medium-sized businesses, the abandonment of the policy of economic "dirigisme" and the opening of countries to foreign direct investment. Responsible for the implementation of this ambitious national programme became crown Prince Mohammed Ibn Salman al Saud. In the framework of the Vision 2030 plan to diversify production, creating platforms for implementation of innovative technologies, the conversion of the Sovereign Fund Saudi Arabia's $3 trillion of assets, making it the largest in the world, a full withdrawal from neftegasmash while increasing revenues from production of hydrocarbons, the placement of the state Corporation Saudi Aramco on foreign exchanges, the development of the country's tourism industry and the mining industry, creating a defensive holding, the reconstruction of the housing sector, and large-scale transport infrastructure construction. The cost of implementing projects in the framework of the "Vision" is in the trillions of dollars. It is worth considering that the liberalization of the economy involves the creation of Saudi Arabia a favourable competitive environment among enterprises of all levels that are valid only at stimulating the participation of the state. As the main supporter and the person in charge of the program Vision is crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, from his political authority and influence the success of its implementation. Recent political processes in Saudi Arabia testify to the attempts of Mohammed Ibn Salman to strengthen its influence.

In November 2017, were formed anti-corruption Committee, headed by Mohammed bin Salman. The result of the work of the Committee was arrested 11 princes and 36 high-ranking officials who were charged of corruption and embezzlement of state property. According to The Wall Street journal, the Saudi authorities confiscated the property and has frozen funds in Bank accounts totaling $800 billion Accumulation of financial resources and political influence in the hands of a young heir to the throne gives him the ability to stay the course of reform in Saudi Arabia. Despite the activity of the young leader, the king of Saudi Arabia still plays a key role in the system of public administration. His support for the concept of the Saudi Vision 2030 provides full implementation of all programs and projects within its framework. So, on March 19, 2019 for the initiative was allocated $23 billion to launch four projects ("Park of king Salman", "Sports Boulevard", "Green Riyadh", "the Art of Riyadh") under the programme "Quality of life" [10]. These sites will serve as platforms for investment that contributes to the development of diversification of foreign economic relations KSA with foreign countries.
The fundamental transformation of the economic model KSA involves a change in the economic policy of the government. In the framework of the "Vision" envisages a complex of measures aimed at reducing public spending and reduce subsidies, the revision of public investment programs, on change which should come private.

As objects of investments must be a major logistics projects, through which 30% of global commercial flows. Hopes Kingdom holds the port in Jeddah, a highway from Egypt to Saudi Arabia.
The core of the extensive programme of reforms is the large-scale privatization. With its help it is planned to increase the share of private sector in GDP from the current 40% to 65% by 2030, Privatization is expected to take place in several stages. The first stage – sale of a portion (5%) of the shares of the parent company ARAMCO, which is considered the most expensive in the world. Experts estimate it from 0.7 trillion to 10 trillion dollars, although the strength of the private characters of Saudi politics and business you can only guess about the true market price of the company's assets. Part of the sale of ARAMCO will cover the budget deficit and send money to support the strengthening due to the privatization of the State investment Fund (Public Investment Fund, PIF). The Fund was established in 1971 to support projects of strategic importance and development of the Saudi economy. It has assets worth 160 billion USD. including shares of company Saudi Basic Industries Corp., which is the second largest producer in the world of chemicals. Subject to the transfer of the shares of ARAMCO and state-owned lands, which could also be privatized, PIF will increase its capitalization to 106 billion dollars. and in the future will control more than 3 trillion dollars, thus becoming, the world's largest sovereign investment Fund. Private property, unlike the state has the greatest flexibility and a high degree of adaptation to market conditions.

Given the above, we can conclude, the vision of the ruling elite of Saudi Arabia is to create a multi-industry and diversified economy, open and competitive. As a result, the country must be inflows of FDI (foreign direct investment). However, to assess the prospects for the inflow of foreign investment in new emerging sectors of the economy need to take into account the situation on the outer contour KSA and the internal processes in the country.

Thus, we can conclude. The socio-political situation in Saudi Arabia is characterized as complex and multifaceted. Amid external instability, local conflicts and complicated the relations within the GCC, the state is on a path of fundamental transformation, affecting virtually all spheres of public life (except spiritual), first of all, the reforms focused on the economy. The originality of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia lies in the contradictions between the national interests of the state and personal motives are the most influential clan of the richest financial Empire Bay – the Royal family of al Saud.

The list of sources

  1. Ganiev T. A., Onishchuk S. M "Special country". M: WOO, 2019. 17-19.
  2. https://www.mod.gov.sa/en/Ministry/Pages/Strategies.aspx
  3. https://www.sipri.org/datebase/milex
  4. Ganiev T. A., S. M. Zadonsky Karyakin V. V. Military power of the Islamic Republic of Iran: military policy and the armed forces of the country. M.: IPM. 2019. S - 192
  5. Trukhin, A. S., "Geopolitical developments in the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf"
  6. "The development of economic relations of China and Saudi Arabia in the 21st century: a Chinese view" E. V. Didenko (middle East and present No. 51)
  7. "The experience of addressing migration issues in countries of the Arabian Peninsula" S. S. Balmasov, S. 115-196 (the Middle East Institute)
  8. https://www.eprussia.ru/news/base/2019/2621675.htm
  9. According to estimates of Abu Dhabi Commecial Bank, this amounts to 11% of GDP
  10. https://www.interfax.ru/pressrelease/654797

Drozdov Yu. I.


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