In June 2003, the Rockefeller Foundation convened a conference on relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia, the first in a series of dialogues on “The Muslim World and the Global Future” that will be centered at the Foundation’s study and conference center in Bellagio, Italy. The intent of the series is to engage those who shape the debate about Islam and the West and to develop new and constructive insights and dialogues around these charged issues. Some 20 Saudis and Americans gathered for a frank conversation that explored what turned out to be greatly disappointed expectations on both sides. While the contentions were not unexpected, conference participants repeatedly noted the novelty of an extended conversation on bilateral relations among participants who were prominent in civil society, business or academic circles, but were not representing their governments. To move this exchange forward, a second conference was convened in July 2004, bringing together another group of Saudis and Americans. Their focus was “U.S.-Saudi Relations: A Rocky Road.”
A DIFFICULT YEAR
In the year between the two Bellagio conferences, difficulties continued to complicate U.S.-Saudi relations. These difficulties do not stem only from areas of bilateral concern, but also from differences in strategic vision, which deepen bilateral tensions. Of note, in the intervening year:
- The War in Iraq: By June 2003, the American battle plan had achieved its strategic goal of regime change. By July 2004, the difficulties of security and reconstruction had become paramount, raising questions about the long-term prospects of Iraq, a Saudi neighbor with a majority Shiite population likely to become its dominant political force.
- The Oil Market: With increasing global demand and continued doubts about the security of oil supplies in Iraq, Russia and Venezuela, Saudi oil assumed even greater importance in international markets. Despite official Saudi reaffirmations of support for lower prices, prices rose above $40 per barrel, with little prospect that additional production would bring them down. After the conference, prices continued to rise, above $50 per barrel by the fall of 2004.
- The War on Terrorism: While the American homeland did not suffer another terror attack in the intervening year, Saudi Arabia faced a major increase in terrorism, with deadly attacks targeting both Saudis and foreign residents. At the same time, officials on both sides spoke of greatly improved cooperation in what they agreed would be a continuing war on terror. American critics of Saudi Arabia continued to focus on the flow of Saudi funds to the jihadi underground; Saudis pointed to significant new controls on charitable giving.
In effect, these are global issues, though each obviously retains a significant bilateral component. But cooperation is no longer a simple matter of agreement between the U.S. and Saudi governments. Other factors strongly influence how well American and Saudi interests can be aligned. On Iraq, it is the persistence of Iraqi resistance, broadcast widely through Saudi Arabia and the Arab world. On oil, it is the demand of new customers for Saudi crude. On terrorism, it is the possibility of differences between the two countries – both strategic and practical – over how to proceed. As a result, the U.S.Saudi relationship itself is no longer contained within a narrow framework of bilateral interests.
This marks a major shift in how business is done. The standard view of U.S.-Saudi relations, fixed over decades, was based on a trade of oil for security. That is, the Saudis would provide a steadily increasing flow of reasonably priced oil to the Americans, who would, in turn, assure the security of the country and the regime, as well as the stability of the oil-producing Persian Gulf region. In this context, the relationship was managed quietly by elites in both countries, to their mutual benefit.
This standard view no longer applies. Several Saudi participants described the relationship as having been “democratized.” Their point was not that Saudi Arabia had become a democracy, but rather that the Saudi public’s opposition to American policies had become a real constraint on Saudi relations with the United States. While founded on objections to the war in Iraq and American support for Israel, among other things, these objections had moved beyond the specifics of a given policy disagreement. There is now a general rejection of U.S. policy across a range of issues and a fear of American intentions, even toward Saudi Arabia itself. Maintaining close relations with the United States, in the face of public opposition, had come to illustrate how unresponsive the regime was to Saudi public opinion.
At the same time, Saudi Arabia is deeply unpopular in the United States, with one recent poll finding 72-percent agreement with the view that the United States could not trust Saudi Arabia. Here too, a hostile view of U.S.-Saudi relations had become widespread, appearing for example in Michael Moore’s film Fahrenheit 9/11 and on the presidential campaign trail. Both Saudi and American participants agreed that, in a range of areas, decisions that the United States and Saudi Arabia might have once made privately would increasingly have to be justified publicly. The relationship has become a public issue in both countries.
The passage of a year reinforced one of the conclusions of the first meeting on U.S.Saudi relations: there is almost no domestic constituency for strong bilateral relations in either country. While real differences will inevitably continue, vital interests still link the two countries. Can these interests be protected in an increasingly bitter climate?
THE STATE OF RELATIONS
While close relations are more than just a matter of habit, it is striking how much the expectations of mutual reliance persist between the two countries. Indeed, growing differences between them illuminate how reflexively the United States and Saudi Arabia have counted on one another for strategic reinforcement. Over 25 years, the two governments cooperated closely in the anti-Soviet war in Afghanistan (nurturing, in the process, the jihadi movement that has now turned against them), in the first Gulf War and subsequent Gulf security issues, in oil-market issues and in a range of Cold War initiatives that reached from Latin America through Europe and Africa to South and Southeast Asia. In each of these cases, it is possible to track the cooperation back to the original oil-for security exchange. To be sure, these cases reflect an expanded sense of how security ought to be defined. Yet each time, the Saudis put their oil money and prestige behind American strategic goals connected to perceived threats to Saudi stability, whether from the Soviet Union, Iran, Iraq or “global communism.”
With the post-9/11 deterioration in relations, however, Saudis contend that Americans have dismissed this history of close cooperation. Indeed, the Saudi argument goes, for years Saudi Arabia was accused in the Arab world of forsaking the Arab cause to curry American favor; now, Saudi Arabia is treated by Americans as a hostile nation seething with terrorists.
For the American participants, however, the attacks of 9/11 transformed American strategic thinking, a fact both Americans and Saudis agreed was not well understood abroad. In the light of 9/11, Americans have examined their security through a new lens, recasting old relationships. There is, the participants acknowledged, some reason for Americans to doubt their country’s standing in Saudi Arabia. The attackers of 9/11 were not only predominantly Saudi (15 of the 19), but subsequent investigations have made
clear that Saudi Arabia itself was a focal point for terrorist recruiting, funding and, perhaps most important, ideological justification for the attacks. The Saudi government denies any connection with the jihadi underground, and indeed no official links have been documented. Additionally, the Saudis point to jihadi attacks in Saudi Arabia as proof that they could not be in league with the terrorists. Less clear, however, is the nature of the interaction between Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi religious establishment – and its teachings on such basic questions as jihad and religious pluralism – and the fanaticism of Bin Ladenism. For many Americans, the dividing line between acceptably intolerant Wahhabism and religiously inspired terrorism was wiped away on 9/11. In this view, terrorist violence is the final link in a chain of hatred that starts with fundamentalist intolerance. Over the long term, therefore, preventing further attacks depends on reorienting the basic principles of religious teaching in Saudi Arabia.
Many of the Saudi participants at the meeting were firm advocates of reform – educational, economic and social. While the Saudis defended the importance of reforms, none of them was willing to accept an American blueprint for a Saudi future. Indeed, Saudi reformers discussed how much their own reform agenda is discredited with the Saudi public by virtue of American advocacy; no one wants to be seen as doing American bidding on the critical choices that Saudis must make themselves. Some Saudis also asked whether Americans were genuinely committed to the consequences of opening Saudi society – and, indeed, the whole of the Arab world – to greater public participation. The liberal reforms that Americans claim to want for the Arab world would not be the most likely outcome of a democratic process there. Sophisticated Americans know this, some Saudis argued, which raised questions about American intentions in pressing for reform. Is this yet another way in which the United States is trying to keep the Arab world off-balance, by now criticizing the same Arab allies with whom it made common cause for so many years? Are these criticisms to be taken seriously, when Americans rely more than ever on repressive Arab regimes for support in the war on terror? Do Americans realize how seriously the Arab world weighs their policy statements, and how damaging it is to America’s image when its actions do not reflect its words?
Conferees debated the effectiveness of American “meddling” in Saudi domestic affairs. For some Saudis, outside pressure remains an important element in moving the country toward reform. This does not apply only to the United States, but to international institutions like the World Trade Organization and human-rights groups, which represent global economic or social standards. One Saudi described his country as at a crossroads, with religious and liberal groups offering the government competing agendas, and a terrorist underground growing out of the very failures that all sides are trying to address. In this context, the Saudi government needed support from outside in facing the largescale changes that had to be made. The further integration of Saudi Arabia into the global economy, and the resulting economic improvements that would come with this, made cooperation essential.
DOMESTIC POLITICS AND FOREIGN RELATIONS
In each country, foreign-policy thinking appears increasingly focused on the domestic politics of the other. Repeatedly, Saudi participants critically noted post-9/11 changes in American legal and administrative procedures: the Patriot Act, for its presumed restrictions on civil liberties; the ongoing detention, now largely upheld by the Supreme Court, of foreign combatants at Guantanamo; a string of prosecutions – many unsuccessful – of Muslim-Americans on terrorism-related charges; the much greater difficulty of obtaining American visas by Saudi students, businesspeople, medical patients and visitors.
There were two aspects to the Saudi critique. The first is the sense that America was moving away from its devotion to liberty – a point of admiration among many of the Saudis, particularly those who have studied in the United States. Now, the American defense of liberty appears as simple hypocrisy. The second was the view that a hostile American foreign policy toward Muslim and Arab nations was emerging from an America grown more evangelical and conservative. Perhaps, some Saudis said, U.S. foreign policy was now acting openly on a deep-seated hostility toward Islam. Many Saudis mix both aspects of this critique into their attitude toward the United States, the conference was told, to the point that very practical decisions about what products to buy, the values to which to aspire, and where to study overseas were being affected. The wellspring of goodwill toward the United States engendered by decades of interaction by tens of thousands of Saudi students and businesspeople with Americans was evaporating. The United States was being judged for both its domestic and foreign-policy treatment of Muslim concerns, and, on both counts, many Saudis were finding America wanting.
A number of American participants took a different point of departure. While acknowledging that Americans had paid little attention to U.S.-Saudi relations for many years, the post-9/11 environment brought a sea change in public awareness. A connection between Saudi domestic policies and threats to the United States had become central to American understanding of the relationship. Even if this connection had at times been distorted by the media, Saudi Arabia remained a country whose basic values now seemed to conflict with America’s. It was not accurate to claim, a number of American participants pointed out, that a U.S. foreign-policy focus on democracy promotion was the outcome of 9/11. For example, the National Endowment for Democracy was now more than 20 years old, a product of the Cold War. Instead, American attention had shifted in a post-9/11 world, and the full apparatus of human-rights monitoring was now focused on the Saudis.
Pressure is increasing, the conference was told, for Saudi Arabia to be named a “country of concern” by the State Department, a designation recommended by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom for countries that do not allow freedom of worship. (Saudi Arabia was so designated by the State Department in September 2004.) Of particular concern are restrictions on religious observances in Saudi Arabia by non-Muslims, restrictions on Shii religious observances and other Muslim practices rejected by the Wahhabi interpretation of Islam, the intolerance of other faiths ascribed to official Wahhabi religious teaching, and the activities of Saudi clerics overseas. In broad terms, this represents an effort by the institutions of American society to transform some of the most entrenched institutions of Saudi society. The idea of religious freedom, filtered through the American governmental and political process, is confronting official Saudi religious structures and their role in interpreting and propagating Islam.
For the Saudi participants, American pressure to change the nature of religious instruction risked, as with so much else, doing great damage. Saudis had indeed been questioning the attitudes of Wahhabi Islam, asking themselves how their society had produced the jihadi mindset that had turned against not just Americans and Westerners, but against Saudi Arabia itself. The context for this Saudi debate was the country’s central role in rallying and unifying Muslims around the world. As guardians of the holy places of Mecca and Medina, Saudi Arabia would necessarily speak to Muslims worldwide in terms of piety and devotion to Islam. And indeed it was not clear to the Saudis at what point such religious outreach had become dangerous. But Americans did not appear to understand the profoundly religious nature of Saudi society and the importance of Wahhabi Islam. Continued pressure would only further alienate the Saudi public. Do American policy makers understand the risks to America’s own interests of an officially hostile Saudi Arabia?
THE MIDDLE EAST CONFLICT
For many Saudis, American advocacy of reform will be suspect as long as the United States maintains its stance in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This issue arose repeatedly throughout the conference, even overshadowing the ongoing American role in Iraq – and the 140,000 American forces next door, reshaping this critical Saudi neighbor. Saudi critiques of American policy focused particularly on its presumed one-sidedness: the United States is no longer an honest broker working to close the differences between Israelis and Palestinians, but has instead aligned its policies entirely with Israel’s. It was argued that the Sharon government had successfully managed to identify its policies with the American war on terror, leaving American and Israeli policies largely indistinguishable. Over time, Saudi public identification with the Palestinian cause had increased to the point that Israeli policies were seen as an assault on Arab – and even Saudi – identity.
Saudi concerns did not stop there. Repeatedly, questions arose about the American strategic design for the Middle East. Since weapons of mass destruction had not been found in Iraq, several Saudis dismissed the administration’s stated case for the invasion. Without this rationale, they asked about other, unstated motives for the attack. In this view, the American invasion served Israel’s interest by destabilizing Iraq, an important Arab state, and preparing the ground for further military adventures. Within the Bush administration, Israel’s supporters had pushed American policy toward confrontation with the Muslim world. By focusing on Islam as the source of global terror, the Americans had refused to consider whether their own policies had any role in creating the crisis. Here too, the Saudis argued, Israel’s interest in maintaining its occupation of the Palestinians without American criticism was being served at the expense of American relations with the Muslim-Arab world. Taking the case one step further, a number of Saudis raised the possibility that the Americans would not stop in Iraq. They suggested that the United States might move against Saudi Arabia itself, having set the stage by branding Saudi Arabia as a sponsor of terrorism and by demanding a transformation of Saudi society that cannot be achieved. In this view, control of the oil fields was more important than the stability of the kingdom. As one Saudi put it: “The Americans will be there to insure the security of oil, regardless of what we want.”
The Americans did not accept the possibility of a U.S. attack on Saudi Arabia. Instead, they sought to distinguish between two elements that the Saudis had combined: American support for Israel, and the broader American strategy for the war on terror.
U.S. support for Israel did not mean U.S. support for all Israeli policies; President Clinton had worked strenuously to bring about a two-state solution, and President Bush had openly endorsed an independent Palestinian state. The unconditional nature of American support, it was argued, had to do with America’s commitment to a secure and sovereign Jewish state in the Middle East – and not to specific Israeli borders. Palestinian terrorism and the failure of the Palestinian leadership had driven American and Israeli policy closer together than they might otherwise have been.
As for the war on terror, it was not a war against Islam. Instead, the war was aimed at the jihadi networks that were themselves claiming responsibility for terror attacks around the world – including attacks in both the United States and Saudi Arabia. Non-Muslims could not distinguish between the various strands of Islamic thinking that led, in some cases, to support for terrorism. This was a task for Muslims, who would have to confront both the terrorist movements and the religious sources that justified their outrages. In relation to Saudi Arabia, the role of the state in directing religious education and worship in thousands of mosques was critical.
The participants also examined the complications of Saudi-American discussions about American support for Israel. Americans described this support in wide-ranging terms, as the product of cultural, ideological, theological, political, strategic and historical factors. The story of Israel, it was argued, had become part of the moral education of Americans. Too often, it seemed, Arab critiques of Israel were not policy-driven, but emerged from a demonization of Israelis and Jews. Given the recurrence of anti-Semitic polemics in the Arab world (including Saudi Arabia), the credibility of opposition to the Israeli-American alliance had been tainted. In this context, a number of participants referred to the ritual closing of Friday sermons in Saudi Arabia: “Death to the Jews and the Infidels.” For some of the American participants, this served as an example of the kind of casual, unquestioned prejudice that would cast a dark shadow over any Saudi criticism of Israel, and consequently of American policy.
The Saudi participants recalled Crown Prince Abdullah’s Peace Plan, which had been approved by the Arab League, and demonstrated that the Saudis would support a permanent settlement of the Arab-Israeli dispute, which would include recognizing Israel. Yet, they added, this bold step had not been taken up by either the Americans or the Israelis. Moreover, any American rationale for support for Israel based on religious or cultural arguments tended to reinforce the jihadi claim that Muslims will never be treated fairly by the Americans, whose civilizational affinity for Israel blinded them to the justice of the Palestinian cause. If Americans could act for religio-cultural reasons, why shouldn’t Muslims?
None of this is even remotely related to the terms of the original “bargain” between the two countries, which offered American security guarantees for a steady flow of Saudi oil. In fact, for many years the Saudi and American governments agreed to disagree on the Israeli-Arab conflict and worked to keep their differences from obscuring what each side still needed from the other.
Strikingly, the fundamentals of U.S.-Saudi relations, at least in traditional terms, remain firmly in place. Saudi Arabia retains the world’s largest proven oil reserves (more than 260 billion barrels), and remains by far the largest oil producer in the global economy, now selling nearly 10 mmb/d. Traditionally, the Saudis have maintained substantial excess production capacity, allowing them to cover shortfalls in global oil production, thereby assuring adequate supplies. Growing global demand and shortfalls in Iraq, Nigeria and Venezuela have brought Saudi production to near-peak capacity in recent months, underscoring the centrality of Saudi production to the global oil market. Even under the most optimistic scenarios about increased conservation or domestic production, the United States cannot produce oil in nearly the quantities it needs. Neither is there any short or medium-term prospect for a breakthrough in renewable fuels that would replace oil. For the foreseeable future, dependence on foreign – and in particular Saudi – oil must be a fundamental assumption of American planners.
A number of participants, both Saudi and American, argued that the American public does not understand the extent of this dependence. In a world of growing demand, with China leading a pack of high-demand consumers, the realities of competition for scarce oil could make this dependence very clear. The Saudi commitment to meeting market demand, and the preference Saudi Arabia has demonstrated for selling oil to the Americans, is itself an increasingly valuable commodity. A number of participants suggested that rising prices could, over time, drive American and Saudi interests apart, though this is not yet a major irritant in relations.
On the security side, Saudi dependence on the United States remains profound. While the fall of Saddam Hussein appears to have removed one strategic threat, instability in Iraq poses real dangers for Saudi Arabia and the rest of the region. The intentions of Iran, another Saudi neighbor and rival, remain unsettling. Iran is apparently developing a nuclear arsenal, opening a significant threat to Saudi Arabia and its oil, and drawing the continuing attention of the United States and Europe. Yet even here, U.S.-Saudi security interests are compromised by other issues. One Saudi participant, acknowledging the danger to his country of an Iranian nuclear bomb, argued that many Saudis would like to see Iran become a nuclear power in order to offset Israel’s presumed nuclear capacity.
Even though the Iranian nuclear threat to Saudi Arabia would, in practice, be greater than Israel’s, the Saudi public would take pride in seeing this military imbalance addressed. For them, the issue was understood more in regional than in bilateral terms.
At the same time, both Saudi Arabia and the United States remain prime targets of jihadi terrorists. Given the global scope of the jihadi underground, and the need to understand better its links to Saudi Arabia, intelligence, security and military cooperation are a priority for both countries. The security threat to Saudi Arabia has changed in recent years, but the need for close cooperation between the United States and Saudi Arabia has not. Their shared interest in the productive functioning of the global economy will reinforce the original logic of their grand bargain: trading oil for security support.
A GLOBALIZED RELATIONSHIP
Participants agreed that the agenda for U.S.-Saudi relations had been taken out of the hands of the elites who had managed it for so long. It was now in the public domain.
Media in both countries were focused on the disagreements between the two countries. In this light, U.S.-Saudi relations have to some degree become globalized, shaped as much by global trends as by a narrow conception of bilateral interests. With global issues highlighting differences in fundamental values between the two countries, the U.S.-Saudi agenda can no longer be confined to the traditional terms of Saudi oil for American security that guided the relationship for so long. On issues of religious freedom, women’s rights and democracy, American critiques of Saudi Arabia reflect the influence of global (and domestic) policy debates. Likewise, on issues of Palestinian rights and Muslim identity, the Saudi critique of American policy reflects the concerns of a large, global constituency. In both cases, such important differences have little to do with oil prices or military equipment sales. And yet, these issues have reduced support for a relationship that still touches on interests essential for both countries.
Is it possible for the relationship to revert to a narrower base? There was some sentiment among both Americans and Saudis for a greater degree of detachment, in recognition perhaps of the disappointment on both sides in a relationship that had grown far beyond its original terms. Yet how this could be done was not clear, given the continuing mutual reliance of the two countries. There were also voices on both sides – though critical of each government’s policies – raised in defense of a continuing closeness between the United States and Saudi Arabia. Decades of practical dealings had, in this view, created a bond that recent strains had not broken. The reality of mutual reliance was still in place.
Mutual reliance has not prevented mutual estrangement, however. Both countries now face a serious challenge in assessing their relations. Much of this will be done separately, but the conference participants agreed on the need for an ongoing exchange between Saudis and Americans who were representative of broad streams of opinion in their countries. Among its drawbacks, elite management of the relationship is not necessarily in touch with public sentiment. Among its strengths, civil-society interaction provides each side with broader, unprogrammed contact with the other, making clear the diversity of views on both sides. Indeed, both American and Saudi participants saw an ongoing dialogue about the relationship as a means of strengthening independent, civil society voices within Saudi Arabia.
To be effective, such a dialogue must distinguish between critique and demonization of the other side. It would confront the often-malignant fantasies that have taken root within each society’s debate about the relationship. It would underscore the large areas of agreement that still support the logic of close ties. It would also track the growing areas of disagreement that compromise the relationship. Finally, it would isolate those make-or-break issues where the demands of one side could be seriously damaging to the other.
For the first time in the long history of U.S.-Saudi relations, there are large numbers of people in each country who see the other as a threat. By themselves, commercial and security interests will not define how U.S.-Saudi relations proceed. Domestic politics in each place are now a priority concern in the other. Perhaps an ongoing dialogue would simply expose further the weaknesses of the relationship. At the very least, a dialogue would explore the new reality of U.S.-Saudi relations: much of what will happen between the two countries will not be determined in Washington and Riyadh. In the concluding words of one participant, “We are wrong to assume that the strategic dimension of the relationship will protect it.”
AN AGENDA FOR THE FUTURE
Conference participants outlined the changes they would like to see in the policies of each country to further the relationship, with Saudis listing a number of areas where American policy should change and Americans making a similar list about Saudi Arabia. As noted above, many of these items go beyond the classic foreign-policy agenda to include domestic politics and even cultural trends in each state.
The irony of the Saudi-American relationship now is that close government-to-government cooperation on a range of issues, including the “war on terrorism,” oil and Gulf security, is occurring at a time when public opinion on each side is more hostile to the other than in any previous period in the relationship. The government-to-government relationship, though changed by 9/11, is in fairly good shape. Increased Saudi cooperation with the United States on terrorism issues since the May 2003 bombing in Riyadh has brought the two governments closer together on that vital issue. Any agenda for the future requires more attention to the broader society in each country.
Non-official exchanges (what has come to be called “track-two” diplomacy in American parlance) are more important than ever in this environment, but harder to accomplish. American visa regulations make Saudi-American meetings in the United States extremely difficult to organize, and conference participants across country lines urged a reconsideration of American policy on this issue. Such track-two efforts need to go beyond the litany of complaints each side has about the other, which are now very familiar. A practical track-two agenda would emphasize mutual education of opinion leaders in both countries about the debates that are going on within the other’s society.
Even Saudis who know the United States well have a hard time understanding how 9/11 has changed the parameters of the American foreign-policy debate. Even Americans who follow international affairs have little knowledge of the issues that engage Saudis when they argue about the future of their country. These domestic debates create the real constraints that decision makers in both countries face as they make policy in the bilateral relationship. Any effort to repair the relationship at the societal level requires greater understanding of these debates on both sides.
Among the Saudi Arabian issues that Americans need to understand more about are:
- The economic and cultural context in which Saudis debate the educational system and how to reform it;
- The debates both within the Wahhabi tradition and in other Islamic traditions regarding dealings with “the other,” the proper understanding of jihad and the role Saudi Arabia should play in the Muslim world;
- The nuanced debate about women’s rights and how that debate has come, symbolically, to stand for a whole range of issues regarding social change;
- The range of debate regarding Saudi readings of American foreign-policy motives and goals in the region.
Among the U.S. issues that Saudis need to understand more about are:
- The debate about the role that religion plays in American public life, particularly regarding fundamentalist and evangelical Christianity but also about Islam in America;
- The post-9/11 debate about the causes of terrorism and American policy reactions to deal with anti-American terrorism;
- The debate within the neoconservative intellectual movement regarding foreign policy, and the debate between that school of thought and others.
As this project of Saudi-American dialogue continues, we hope to be able to address these issues in a way that will broaden understanding on both sides of the parameters of public debate and the constraints felt by policy makers.
Abdullah Alireza, minister of state
Fawziah al-Bakr, College of Education, King Saud University
Khalid al-Dakhil, Department of Sociology, King Saud University
Haifa Jamal Allail, Effat College
Munira al-Nahedh, Social Studies Department, King Saud University
Mishary al-Nuaim, Department of Political Science, King Saud University
Ziad Bin Abdulrahman al-Sudairy, attorney and member of the Shura Council
Ihsan Ali Bu-Hulaiga, Joatha Informatics Consulting Center and member of the Shura Council
Abdulaziz al-Fahad, attorney
Anthony Cordesman, Center for Strategic and International Studies and The Johns Hopkins University
Barrett I. Duke, Jr., The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention
Jean Bethke Elshtain, University of Chicago
F. Gregory Gause, III, University of Vermont
Robert W. Jordan, attorney and former ambassador to Saudi Arabia
Melanie Kenderdine, Gas Technology Institute
Msgr. William A. Kerr, The Pope John Paul II Cultural Center
Anthony T. Kronman, Yale Law School
Sara E. Melendez, George Washington University
Clifford Chanin, The Legacy Project
Ram Manikkalingam, The Rockefeller Foundation