Country Report Saudi Arabia May 2011

The political scene: In focus

Osama bin Laden's killing engenders mixed feelings

The US killing of the Saudi-born leader of al-Qaida, Osama bin Laden, in Pakistan at the beginning of May raised as many security concerns and questions for the Saudi government as it eased. Saudi-Pakistani relations are unlikely to be affected, however, although reports in Elaph, a Saudi online newspaper, that Saudi Arabia is planning to engage in joint naval exercises with India and to make naval defence purchases from India will no doubt worry Pakistan. Social networking sites and other forms of online comment suggest that Saudis are sceptical about the killing's relevance to their lives, given that Osama bin Laden has arguably been little more than a symbolic leader of al-Qaida for a number of years, with little or no operational role.

The official Saudi statement in response to the killing stated pithily that it hoped it would contribute to a reduction of terrorism and noted that the kingdom had itself been a victim of al-Qaida attacks. However, press remarks elsewhere contrasting the violent methods espoused by Osama bin Laden with the primarily peaceful protests that have swept the region during the so-called Arab Spring have received short shrift in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is keen to do what it can to dampen revolt at home and within the region, and therefore is, on balance, unlikely to be feeding challenges to Arab governments, even to a mistrusted regime like that in Syria. The exception to this is Colonel Muammar Qadhafi of Libya-a hated Arab rival that Saudi Arabia believes tried to have the Saudi king, Abdullah bin Abdel-Aziz al-Saud, murdered.

© 2011 The Economist lntelligence Unit Ltd. All rights reserved
Whilst every effort has been taken to verify the accuracy of this information, The Economist lntelligence Unit Ltd. cannot accept any responsibility or liability for reliance by any person on this information