Saudi Arabia is in a state of flux. A royal family purge, including the arrests of several high-profile elites; economic malaise, due to a dramatic slump in oil prices; and social reforms, including expanding rights for women, have all combined to create a sense of uncertainty around the kingdom’s future.
But Saudi Arabia, and its previous incarnations, has faced down serious challenges before. Although the modern Saudi state was founded less than a century ago, the Saudi clan has dominated the Arabian Peninsula for nearly three centuries. Various empires and tribes have sought to bring the region under their rule, leading to disintegration and a constant struggle for power throughout much of its history. Only the Saudis have managed to maintain long-term control over much of the Arabian Peninsula.
But the two principal factors that Saudi power rests on – religion and oil – are not what they used to be. The peninsula is thus likely to fragment once again –