The Authoritarian Resurgence: Saudi Arabia’s Anxious Autocrats

Issue Date April 2015
Volume 26
Issue 2
Page Numbers 71-85
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Since the 2011 Arab uprisings, Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy in the Middle East has been non-ideological, realist, and defensive in intent, but negative in its implications for democracy. To contain Iran, quarantine the Muslim Brotherhood, and combat jihadism, Riyadh has backed local actors that are mostly authoritarian and antiliberal—and the net effect has been damaging for political pluralism and civil society. While the succession to King Salman has produced a more temperate approach to the Brotherhood, such shifts are ultimately tactical. At its core the Kingdom remains an autocratic state wedded to monarchical privilege at home and bent on enforcing political quietism abroad.