The Assertive Kingdom - Saudi Arabia’s Threat Perception, Capabilities and Strategies


  • Samuel Neuman Bergenwall

Publish date: 2017-01-11

Report number: FOI-R--4390--SE

Pages: 54

Written in: English


This report assesses Saudi Arabia's threat perception, capabilities and strategies, as well as identifies questions that will have an effect on Saudi Arabia's future stability and security policy. Saudi Arabia perceives its security to be under threat due to growing regional influence of Iran; shifts in US Middle East policy; rising challenges from Daesh and al-Qaeda; a Saudi Spring; as well as economic stagnation. Nevertheless, thanks largely to a decade of high oil prices, Saudi Arabia has amassed large economic capabilities and growing military strength, as well as retained influence through the fields of religion, media and in multilateral institutions. Saudi Arabia utilizes various strategies to mitigate perceived threats and to increase capabilities: adopting a radical plan for economic reform; employing an assertive oil price strategy; modernizing its armed forces; using military power abroad; developing a nuclear energy program; establishing a Saudi-led regional security architecture less dependent on the West; repressing political opposition; using chequebook diplomacy; and utilizing media and religion as strategic instruments. The report assesses that the future stability and security policy of Saudi Arabia above all will be affected by the evolution of the kingdom's relations with Iran and the US, as well as by the ability of Riyadh to revive the economy, manage societal change and avoid a game of thrones within the royal family.

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