Riyadh out to Make Fewer Foreign Policy Waves in 2019

MIN READDec 18, 2018 | 17:05 GMT

A Saudi flag flies in front of Riyadh's consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 13, 2018.

A Saudi flag flies in front of Riyadh's consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 13. After a turbulent couple of years, Saudi Arabia might tone down the assertiveness in its foreign policy in 2019.

(YASIN AKGUL/AFP/Getty Images)

Of all the Middle East powers that shape and influence the region, Saudi Arabia is perhaps the most important. Since King Salman's ascension to the throne in 2015, the country's culture and priorities have been shifting, both internally and externally. For the country's foreign policy, this means that decisions are no longer characterized by slow-moving, careful deliberation -- like other aspects of decision-making in the kingdom -- but are far more dynamic, if not more erratic, under the auspices of Mohammed bin Salman, the king's son and crown prince who has become Saudi Arabia's face to the world. The crown prince's whims notwithstanding, Saudi Arabia's foreign policy imperatives have not changed. At its heart, the kingdom is still intent on securing itself in a conflict-prone region from domestic security threats like jihadism and anti-government sentiment and external security threats from Iran. But ultimately, following recent events that have put a strain...

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