Pride and Prejudice in Saudi Arabia

published in MER185

Ahmad and Fatima Abdallah (not their real names) are an Arab professional couple who worked in Saudi Arabia for four years in the 1980s. They discussed their impressions with a Middle East Report editor in September 1993.

Coming from elsewhere in the Arab world, what were your first impressions of Saudi Arabia?

The Saudi Economy: A Few Years Yet Until Doomsday

by Fareed Mohamedi
published in MER185

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Globalization and Its Discontents

by
published in MER193

“Globalization” is currently fashionable among privileged quarters of American society. It stands as the umbrella term for contemporary trends in culture, production, finance, marketing, technology, consumption, ideas, values and institutions that are variously celebrated, denounced, dissected and deconstructed.

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The Saudis, the French and the Embargo

by Fareed Mohamedi , Roger Diwan
published in MER193

The successful maintenance of a near total embargo on Iraq owes to a number of factors, ranging from geography to post-Cold War global economies. Iraq’s limited access to the sea can be easily monitored, while its record of regional aggression has deprived Baghdad of local friends. Despite some breaches of the export embargo involving high-ranking officials in both countries, Iran is not going to give Iraq much economic relief. The same goes for Syria. Turkey and Jordan, Iraq’s two lifelines to the outside world, cannot risk more than limited and calibrated breaches of the embargo because of their own susceptibility to US pressures.

Gun Belt in the Beltway

by Robert Vitalis
published in MER197

On August 22 and 23, 1993, Saudi Arabia’s finances received rare front-page coverage in the New York Times, inaugurating a period of hand wringing inside the Beltway and among the academy’s consulting class over the kingdom’s future. This is a tradition going back decades, to the 1940s, when the Saudi treasury was managed by a decrepit alcoholic and the Americans created the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority to replace him. Nostalgia was probably unavoidable among the ranks of Saudi watchers “present at the creation,” like Herman Eilts, then a young US embassy official, or Phebe Marr, an ambitious analyst in what the American ambassador called Aramco’s private intelligence service.

The Most Obscure Dictatorship

by Alain Gresh
published in MER197

The camera avoids faces, except those of the plainclothes police. The black-and-white images are hazy, jumpy. They evoke the antiquated style of negatives that have escaped the censor and customs searches. “This could be any country,” says the commentator -- Chile under Gen. Pinochet, or Burma under the military. But here the men who gather wear long white robes and checkered headdresses, held in place by an ‘iqal, a black silk tress. The women remain invisible.

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The Taliban, the Shari'a and the Pipeline

Rivalries and Power Plays in Afghanistan

by Olivier Roy
published in MER202

Underlying the appearance of the Taliban movement, first of all, are factors internal to Afghan society, in particular the discrediting of the government and the “commandos” born out of the resistance to Soviet intervention. The rapid expansion of the militia, culminating with the conquest of Kabul on September 26, 1996, cannot be understood without considering the direct support of Pakistan, abetted by the US and Saudi Arabia, as part of a larger project to export fossil fuels from Central Asia to Western markets via Afghanistan and Pakistan, bypassing Iran and Russia.

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The Romance of Tahliyya Street

Youth Culture, Commodities and the Use of Public Space in Jidda

by Lisa Wynn
published in MER204

For middle and upper class elite, entertainment in Jidda is overwhelmingly centered around commodities. In particular, the city’s Tahliyya Street is a monument to commercialization in Saudi Arabia: a string of shops and fast food restaurants such as Benetton, Esprit, McDonald’s and Sbarro, mixed in with local entrepreneurial creations, such as Stallion Records and Dujaj al-Tazij.

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