Stephane Lacroix writes for Foreign Policy that the same types of unrest that are taking place across the Middle East have bypassed Saudi Arabia for two reasons, one “material” and the other “symbolic.” The first is most obviously Saudi Arabia’s immense oil reserves and subsequent national wealth. The second is what Lacroix calls the government’s co-option of “the Sahwa, the powerful Islamist network which would have to play a major role in any sustained mobilization of protests.” From the article:
Like the Brotherhood in Egypt, the Sahwa in Saudi Arabia is by far the largest and best organized non-state group, with arguably hundreds of thousands of members. Its mobilizing capacity is huge, far ahead of any other group, including the tribes which have for the last few decades lost a lot of their political relevance. An illustration of this were the 2005 municipal elections, which provided observers with an unprecedented opportunity to measure the ability of Saudi political actors to mobilize their supporters. In most districts of the major cities, Sahwa-backed candidates won with impressive scores.