Title page for ETD etd-09222005-123252

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author DeLozier, Elana
Author's Email Address edelozie@vt.edu
URN etd-09222005-123252
Title Threats to Religious Legitimacy and State Security: The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's Quest for Stable Continuity
Degree Master of Arts
Department Political Science
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Weisband, Edward Committee Chair
Ochsenwald, William L. Committee Member
Taylor, Charles Lewis Committee Member
  • threat
  • middle east
  • Saudi Arabia
  • terrorism
  • foreign policy
Date of Defense 2005-09-05
Availability unrestricted
This thesis examines how Saudi Arabia responds to threats posed to its dynastic survival with specific emphasis on the current threat posed by Islamism. Saudi Arabia needs both religious legitimacy and state security in order to ensure the stability and continuity of the Kingdom. These needs produce a recurrent tension within the Saudi foreign policy framework because they pull in opposing directions. These tensions become particularly acute when the Kingdom is faced with a grave threat to either its religious legitimacy or its state security. Two cases studies are used to illustrate the Saudi Arabian response to threat. The Pan-Arab movement of the 1950s and 1960s threatened Saudi Arabia's religious legitimacy, and the 1991 Kuwait War threatened Saudi Arabia's state security. The Kingdom was able to endure these threats by balancing the resulting tensions. Historically, Saudi Arabia has only had to manage one type of threat at a time; however, Islamism represents an unprecedented threat because it simultaneously endangers Saudi Arabia's state security and religious legitimacy and to a greater degree than past threats. Islamism is qualitatively more intense because it combines dimensions that had previously been separate and manageable by the Kingdom. This thesis argues that since Islamism is confining the space for political maneuverability, Saudi Arabia faces its most serious threat to stable continuity--a danger which might undermine the Kingdom if a change to threat response is not made.
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