In This Review

The Saudi Kingdom: Between the Jihadi Hammer and the Iranian Anvil
The Saudi Kingdom: Between the Jihadi Hammer and the Iranian Anvil
By Ali al Shihabi
Markus Wiener, 2015, 218 pp.

Although not a member of the Saudi royal family, Shihabi is a Western-educated Saudi businessman committed to the survival of the House of Saud. In this forcefully argued book, he portrays the monarchy’s potential downfall as an unmitigated disaster that would lead to the collapse of the smaller Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states and that would create a void that could be filled only by jihadists or Iran. He is highly critical of the sprawling network of princes and Wahhabi clergy on the state dole, and he argues that Islamism is mostly a vessel for class antagonism. He calls for the state to embrace some reforms—budget transparency, a sharp reduction in the size of royal patronage networks, and fewer restrictions on debate—and he hopes that King Salman will lead the way. Shihabi sees little reason to believe that the nuclear deal that world powers reached with Iran last year will change the Islamic Republic’s disruptive behavior in the Middle East, and he calls for the GCC to admit Yemen, with its 25 million people, which would nearly double the council’s population and make the GCC a more credible counterweight to Iran.