Could There Ever Be a Saudi Revolution?

Author & Political Scientist
The global risk expert explains how the Saudi royal family is like the Vatican.
  • Transcript

TRANSCRIPT

Ian Bremmer: It’s not like there could never be a revolution there, but Saudi Arabia has an enormous amount of money.  There is an unemployment problem, but most of the key workers that are brought in and out to do sort of the lower end jobs are not Saudis.  They’re Bengalis.  They’re Pakistanis.  They’re brought in and they can be shipped out.  A lot of Saudis don’t want those jobs, refuse to take those jobs.  Now when the Saudis decide to throw 37 billion dollars at their people as sort of a little additional stimulus that sound crass in the United States.  It even sounds crass in New York, but it’s not crass in Saudi Arabia.  That’s kind of part of what the social contract is all about.  The Saudi government does have real legitimacy.  The House of Saudi, the family has real legitimacy among most Saudis and when minority Shia populations in the eastern province become restive and say they want the king to go that actually makes the Sunnis much more cohesive. 

So the likelihood that we’re going to see the Saudi regime implode in the near term is virtually zero, and King Abdul 87 years-old—what happens if he dies tomorrow?  Well then couldn’t it all blow up?  No, because the family is very cohesive.  I mean Crowned Prince Sultan will probably be sidelined because he is not doing well physically, but you’ll bring in Prince Nayef the minister of interior and there will be a smooth transition.

It’s kind of like the Vatican.  We won’t know what is going on, but then all of the sudden white smoke, grey smoke.  You got a new person.  Look I love comparing the Saudis to the Vatican because it’s perverse, but at the same time there is a fundamental stability going on there and again something that the media has just really, really sort of exaggerated and the markets have exaggerated because when anything happens in Saudi the markets go nuts.