Country Report Saudi Arabia May 2011

Outlook for 2011-15: International relations

Saudi Arabia will pursue a fitfully active foreign policy. As demonstrated by its decision to send 1,000 troops into Bahrain in mid-March (after an invitation from the Bahraini king), Saudi Arabia will take an active role in pursuing stability in countries it deems to be within its sphere of interest, even if this occasionally runs counter to the wishes of the US (its most important strategic partner). This interventionist approach will extend to Yemen, where Saudi Arabia has sought to oversee the peaceful removal of the president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, and his replacement by a transitional, unity government. Away from its "near abroad", however, the Saudi leadership will generally defer to the US on wider regional security issues, notably regarding any military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.

Alarmed by the spread of social disorder in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere in the region, Saudi Arabia may dispense increasing economic largesse to countries, such as Jordan, that it considers to be allies vulnerable to interference from outsiders (namely Iran or militant groups connected to it). Relations with fellow Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) members, meanwhile, will be bolstered by the common desire among the region's ruling families to defend the status quo in the face of widespread social unrest-a shared threat that will no doubt eclipse more prosaic intra-GCC economic and business rivalries.

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