In the wake of 9/11, Saudi Arabia remains the key US ally in the Arab Middle East, a role secured by its continuing position as the world's largest oil exporter and its ever growing influence in the Muslim world. Yet the country is still very poorly understood. Western observers have rarely been able to penetrate this closed society and its opaque political system. Cliches about the role of oil wealth and fundamentalist Wahhabi Islam mask the true complexity of Saudi society. Pascal Menoret is critical of the standard depiction of the Bedouin character of the regime. He illustrates the emerging manifestations of Saudi national identity, as fiercely reformist, complex and varied. Underlying his account is a sophisticated economic history of the Saudi state, from the eighteenth century to the present day, which details all the alliances and manoeuvres that have brought the country and its rulers to their current precarious position.
Pascal Menoret worked as a civil servant with the French foreign ministry. He developed a deep understanding of Saudi society during an extensive period as attache to the French embassy in Riyadh, beginning a few days after September 11, 2001, and is the author of several publications in French on Saudi politics and society. The book is translated by Patrick Camiller.