Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Confronting New Saudi Realities: Time to Stop Sticking Our Heads in the Arabian Sands
Press Release

RELEASE: Confronting New Saudi Realities: Time to Stop Sticking Our Heads in the Arabian Sands

By Kate Gordon and Brian Katulis | March 4, 2011

To read the full report, click here.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Center for American Progress released the report “Confronting New Saudi Realities,” by Kate Gordon and Brian Katulis, encouraging a more forward-looking U.S. strategy in Saudi Arabia, including measures to move the authoritarian kingdom toward greater democracy, combined with efforts to help both our nation and Saudi Arabia diversify away from heavy over-reliance on oil and toward increased energy efficiency and use of renewable sources.

The violence in Libya underscores Saudi Arabia’s unique position as the only OPEC country able to increase production enough to make up for other countries’ shortfalls—a situation that makes America even more dependent on this very volatile country. The popular uprisings in the Middle East are yet another wakeup call on two fronts — the fragility of our world’s energy security and the inherent structural weakness in Middle East governments that lack popular legitimacy.

While all eyes are on Libya and the growing threat of civil war, the coming eye of the storm may be Saudi Arabia, a critical player in the geopolitics of energy. Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest oil producer and exporter, with about one-fifth of the world’s proven oil reserves. The world’s dependence on Saudi Arabia for oil has the potential to cause great problems.

In the Middle East today, it is difficult to predict how much political opposition to the status quo might grow in Saudi Arabia. But it would be wise for the United States to anticipate possible changes on the horizon in that country, not only because of its oil production, but also on multiple national security fronts, among them terrorism, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Arab-Israeli conflict. With some likely changes on the horizon in Saudi Arabia, the United States should continue to cooperate with Saudi authorities on the security front while offering quiet support and encouragement to Saudi Arabia in dealing with its difficult economic, political, social, and demographic challenges.

Other recommendations in this report include:

  • U.S. military and intelligence agencies should continue their robust cooperation with the Saudi military and security forces.
  • U.S. diplomats should continue playing a discreet, behind-the-scenes role in assessing the political landscape, sending quiet messages supporting pragmatic reforms, and offering assistance as Saudi Arabia crafts a roadmap for political reforms.
  • Our nation must begin to take serious steps toward decreasing our dependence on this volatile country to feed our oil addiction, through policies aimed at fuel efficiency, clean fuel technology research and development, and getting more electric vehicles on the road.

To read the full report, click here.

If you would like to speak to Kate Gordon or Brian Katulis, please contact Christina DiPasquale at 202-481-8181 or [email protected].