With no obstacles left in his way, Prince Mohammed may move swiftly to implement his vision, all while giving the kingdom something it has not had in over half a century: a young, energetic king who could rule for decades. Whether he succeeds or fails, Saudi Arabia as we know it will never be the same again.
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According to several observers, the plan’s goals, although positive for Saudi Arabia in the long-term, are not compatible with country’s political, social and economic context. “Basically, the regime could collapse by implementing their own plan, but they might also collapse if they don’t,” Kirkegaard explained. “They are in deep structural trouble, and that’s not counting the geopolitical pressure they face over their continued involvement in Syria and Yemen.”
Qatar adopted an ‘open foreign policy’, relying mostly on soft power tools such as the media, diplomacy, economy, humanitarian aid and generous donations. Doha’s strategy was to maintain good relations with all of its neighbours, regardless of their contradictory policies towards each other, notably Iran and Saudi Arabia. However, it maintained ties with several of the West’s adversaries, including Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.
With the lifting of American sanctions, Sudan will, for the first time since the 1990s, be able to trade with the US, allowing it to buy much-needed equipment and spare parts and to attract investment to its collapsing economy. In return, Sudan has agreed to improve access for aid groups, stop supporting rebels in neighbouring South Sudan, cease the bombing of insurgent territory and cooperate with American intelligence agents.
At the root of the conflict between Iran and its Arab neighbours lies the Shia-Sunni divide, as the patrons of the two Muslim sects, Tehran and Riyadh respectively, are both prepared to promote and support their sectarian beliefs. Conflicts in Yemen, Syria and Bahrain can be viewed in this light. Yet it is also the result of an ordinary struggle between two regional powers.
When King Abdullah acceded to the throne in 1999, there were initial signals that the media environment would become freer. The 2003 Audio Visual Law ended the government’s monopoly on radio and television broadcasting, and in 2007, Jordan became the first Arab country to pass a freedom of information law.
Qatar’s 21st-century media environment has been largely dominated by the growth of al-Jazeera, which consolidated itself as a major international media outlet after securing unrivalled access to war zones in Afghanistan and Iraq. The channel established an English-language service in 2006 as it continued to expand, however its popularity has since begun to wane amid accusations of biased reporting during the 2011 Arab uprisings, and due to the competitive pressure exerted by Saudi Arabia and its own pan-Arab news channel, al-Arabiya.