In This Review

Desert Kingdom: How Oil and Water Forged Modern Saudi Arabia
Desert Kingdom: How Oil and Water Forged Modern Saudi Arabia
By Toby Craig Jones
Harvard University Press, 2010, 320 pp

For a desert kingdom to concern itself with the control of water would seem to be a given, but the subject has received slight attention in studies of Saudi Arabia. Although oil has always figured prominently in Saudi studies, this book is surely the first to trace Saudi policies concerning oil and water since the 1920s. Jones presents these policies as dictated by a Saudi drive to create not so much a nation-state as an empire in the Arabian Peninsula. Saudi Arabia is not all desert, but the agriculturally more advantaged Eastern Province, with its appreciable Shiite population, has been the most disadvantaged when it comes to receiving a share of the government's development projects. This explains the Shiite uprising there in 1979 and the halting Saudi efforts thereafter to address the issue. Woven into this book is a pessimistic view of technologically driven policies, environmentalist reflections, and a harsh portrayal of selfishness on the part of both the Saudi state and the oil company it owns, Saudi Aramco.