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Saudi Arabia's Invisible Hand in the Arab Spring

How the Kingdom is Wielding Influence Across the Middle East

Courtesy Reuters

On October 4, a brief, ominous release came from the state-controlled Saudi Press Agency in Riyadh acknowledging that there had been violent clashes in the eastern city of Qatif between restive Shiites and Saudi security forces. It reported that "a group of instigators of sedition, discord and unrest" had assembled in the heart of the kingdom's oil-rich region, armed with Molotov cocktails. As authorities cleared the protesters, 11 officers were wounded. The government made clear it would respond to any further dissent by "any mercenary or misled person" with "an iron fist." Meanwhile, it pointed the finger of blame for the riots at a "foreign country," a thinly veiled reference to archrival Iran.

Saudi Arabia has played a singular role throughout the Arab Spring. With a guiding hand -- and often an iron fist -- Riyadh has worked tirelessly to stage manage affairs across the entire region. In fact, if there was

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