KSA is Ready for Liberalization but not Democratization

Democratization is highly problematic in the Muslim world due to the popularity of Islamist movements. What is the point of democratizing and holding elections if this leads to Islamist totalitarians coming to power? Yet, democracy has proven possible to varying degrees in some Muslim nations. Saudi Arabia is the most conservative country in the Muslim world and which is now undergoing a carefully calibrated liberal revolution. However, if MBS were to also democratize would the result be the opposite of liberalization, namely Islamization. The US should as part of a bargain for a USA-KSA defense pact strongly demand that Saudi domestic intelligence ceases torturing detainees, however to make sweeping demands for human rights beyond that is a mistake and harms American interests. MBS knows his country and knows precisely what he is doing. To democratize Saudi Arabia is incompatible with liberalization and would be a severe strategic mistake. President Biden must face the reality that there can either be liberalization in Saudi Arabia or Islamization which is the inevitable result of democratization. President Joe Biden and Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman apparently had a difficult conversation in Jeddah. Democratization could come further down the road in perhaps some 25 years but now it is unrealistic and profoundly dangerous. President Biden should certainly press for democratization in Muslim nations where public opinion support liberal democracy but would be particularly well-advised to refrain from doing so in nations such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt where the majority still support Islamist totalitarianism.

Published by Daniella Bartfeld

Daniella Bartfeld is the founding director of the Aliyah Organization.

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