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Saudi Arabia’s recognition of Israel “would be a game-changer” for the Arab and Muslim world, enabling many more states in the region to normalize relations with Israel, says Rice University scholar Kristian Ulrichsen.

But, as Ulrichsen explains in the latest edition of our global affairs podcast, The Pivot, the Hamas attacks of October 7 “torpedo any movement towards a deal” for the coming future.

Listen to this episode of The Pivot on Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart RadioPocket CastsRadioPublicSpotify, TuneIn Radio, or YouTube Music.

Ultimately, what matters most for Saudi Arabia’s de-facto leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — also known as MBS — are his plans to transform the country’s economy and society, through a roadmap known as Vision 2030. Ulrichsen says MBS’s desire to make Vision 2030 succeed is ultimately what has driven his recent efforts to “de-risk” Saudi Arabia from a volatile region. The war in Gaza is a great test for MBS’s de-risking strategy.

In this episode, we discuss how Saudi Arabia and MBS’s Vision 2030 are being impacted by the latest Israeli-Palestinian crisis, and what role Riyadh might play in shaping the war’s outcome as well as what follows.

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I ask Ulrichsen whether Saudi Arabia can play a diplomatic role in achieving a ceasefire or even a military role as part of a peacekeeping force, as some pro-Israeli commentators have proposed.

We cover a lot of ground — from the fate of the Israeli-Saudi normalization process to relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, what the Houthi rebels might be up to, and the future of MBS and his Vision 2030.

Episode Description:

Rice University scholar Kristian Ulrichsen joins host Arif Rafiq to discuss how the October 7 attacks by Hamas have impacted Saudi Arabia’s moves toward normalizing ties with Israel, its relations with Iran, and plans by its de-facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to transform the country’s economy and society through Vision 2030.

Guest:

Kristian Coates Ulrichsen (Image Credit: Rice University)
  • Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, @Dr_Ulrichsen, Fellow, Baker Institute, Rice University

Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, Ph.D., is a fellow for the Middle East at the Baker Institute. His research examines the changing position of Persian Gulf states in the global order, as well as the emergence of longer-term, nonmilitary challenges to regional security. Previously, he worked as a senior Gulf analyst at the Gulf Center for Strategic Studies and as co-director of the Kuwait Program on Development, Governance and Globalization in the Gulf States at the London School of Economics.

Ulrichsen has published extensively on the Middle East and Persian Gulf region.

His books include “The First World War in the Middle East,” “The United Arab Emirates: Power, Politics, and Policymaking,” and “Qatar and the Gulf Crisis.”

Ulrichsen holds a doctorate in history from the University of Cambridge.

Arif Rafiq is the editor of Globely News. Rafiq has contributed commentary and analysis on global issues for publications such as Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, the New Republic, the New York Times, and POLITICO Magazine.

He has appeared on numerous broadcast outlets, including Al Jazeera English, the BBC World Service, CNN International, and National Public Radio.

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