The Foreign Service Journal, May 2018

44 MAY 2018 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL societal controls will undoubtedly reduce pressure on the ruling family to allow for a greater popular voice in fundamental govern- ment decisions. But will that trade-off be enough? The U.S. Interest in MBS’ Success Saudi Arabia has been a pillar of U.S. foreign policy and national security in the Middle East since the end of World War II, as well as a key partner in promoting global economic prosperity. In his comments welcoming the crown prince to the White House in March, President Donald J. Trump highlighted the broad scope of U.S.-Saudi cooperation in promoting regional security and stability. As the Trump administration sharpens its approach to Iran in the coming months, seeking to challenge its regional ambitions, ballistic missile programs and interference in its neighbors’ affairs, Saudi Arabia will be a critical partner. Moreover, the administration will look to Riyadh to assist in the reconstruction of Iraq and Yemen, the stabilization of Syria and efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For all these reasons the United States, which is counting heavily on Saudi support, has every reason to welcome the Vision 2030 initiative and to contribute to its success. In particu- lar, the U.S. business community has been deeply engaged in the initiative, and will benefit from its close ties to Saudi counter- parts. But we also have an equally strong interest in shoring up Saudi Arabia’s long-term political stability. Toward that end, Washington should do all it can to ensure that Saudi society has safe channels for airing dissent. It should also make the case to the Saudi leadership that its willingness to accept divergent views is an important component of our engagement. For as the experience of the Arab Spring suggests, when authoritar- ian regimes actively suppress dissent, the result is often an unhealthy build-up of pressures that leads to an unmanageable explosion of anger and frustration. As MBS and the Saudi leadership advance broad, sweeping changes in the fundamental fabric of their society, it becomes more important than ever that the population have access to acceptable, peaceful means to express its views on those propos- als. Part of the U.S. contribution to the success of the Vision 2030 project should therefore be continued engagement with the Saudi leadership, encouraging it to embrace greater popular participation in decision-making, more open political debate and a strong adherence to the rule of law. Such reforms can be as important to the overall success of the transformative project as the social and economic adjustments Vision 2030 is slated to bring to Saudi Arabia. n