The Chastened Kingdom

Can Saudi Arabia Recover From Four Years of Hubris?

MBS at a summit in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, May 2019 Hamad l Mohammed / Reuters

On December 1, Saudi Arabia officially assumed the presidency of the G-20. The task of leading the high-profile economic forum, which rotates annually among member countries, is usually more a matter of form than of substance. But for Saudi Arabia—the group’s only Arab member—the stakes are high. 

Riyadh takes the helm at a time of great uncertainty. The kingdom’s image has taken a hit following a litany of domestic and international crises, from a ruinous military intervention in Yemen to a stalled pressure campaign against Qatar to the widely publicized 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The reputation and internal legitimacy of Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, or MBS, have suffered as a result. Foreign investment, which the Saudis need to reform their oil-dependent economy, has lagged. 

Eager to repair its image, the Saudi government is attempting a major course correction

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