CFNS Chairman Ken Abramowitz recently returned from a trip to Saudi Arabia (SA). The following is the perspective from Ken.
I came away from this trip with a belief that the country is undergoing a rapid modernization process.
Historically, SA had been a “frenemy” (friend/enemy) of America. It bought huge amounts of U.S. weapons, and produced incremental oil when prices got out of control. But it also allowed the ultra-fundamentalist Wahhabi Muslim clerics to spread the message of radical Islam worldwide.
During the past five years, however, the SA government, led by 35-year-old Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman (MBS), is changing its historical paradigm to become more of a friend than an enemy.
Why is SA making these modernizing changes? There are several reasons:
(1) 70% of the population is below age 30, and they are demanding change.
(2) Young people are connected by smart phones and social media, and want to live like those in the West, not subjected to the legal restrictions on freedom of speech, and dissent, present in SA.
(3) The price of oil is unpredictable, and SA realizes that it must diversify its economy.
(4) Iran represents an existential threat to SA, and it needs American and even Israeli assistance to protect itself.
(5) Innovation is driving small nations like Israel and Singapore. SA also must learn to become innovative, to catch up with the modern world. It has already made some significant changes to unleash the creative spirit among its people.
During the past 50 years, SA has raised its literacy rate from 5% to 99%, cut infant mortality from 30% to 1%, and steadily raised the average life span. More recently, SA initiated particularly dramatic change over the past 5 years:
• It vowed to “reclaim Islam” • It disbanded the religious police • It fired 3,000 hate-inciting imams
Ken Abramowitz Chairman Citizens For National Security