Saudi Arabia: A Kingdom in Peril?

Talk Monday 27 April 2015, 7:00 PM

The new leader of Saudi Arabia, King Salman, pledged continuity after his accession to the throne following the death of his half-brother, King Abdullah. But with a growing youth population, faint calls for reforms, an unstable oil market and the Islamic State (IS) on its doorstep, will he be able to deliver his pledge?

The House of Saud has survived the events of the Arab Spring intact, but with a changing Middle East and the establishment of IS with strong ties to Saudi Arabia, is the kingdom in peril?

With a panel of experts we will be looking at the situation within Saudi Arabia and the changes we might see under the new king, as well as discussing its influence and actions in the region and relations with the West.

Chaired by Owen Bennett-Jones, freelance journalist and host of Newshour on the BBC World Service. As a correspondent with the BBC he has reported from over 60 countries. He is author of Pakistan: Eye of the Storm and his first novel Target Britain.

The panel:

Safa Al Ahmad is a Saudi freelance journalist. She has spent the last three years covertly filming Saudi’s Secret Uprising. Her 2012 film Al Qaeda in Yemen was a finalist for the Sony Impact Award 2012 and nominated for the News and Documentary Emmy Award. Her essay Wishful Thinking on the Arab uprisings and Saudi Arabia was published in the English Pen Award-winning anthology Writing Revolutions.

Sir William Patey served as UK ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 2007 – 10. Previous appointments in the diplomatic service include ambassador to Sudan, Iraq and Afghanistan. He is now government and international affairs adviser at Control Risks, a director at WCP Consultants and a non-executive director of HSBC Middle East and HBME.

Robert Lacey is a historian and author of numerous books including The Kingdom and Inside the Kingdom. In 1979, he moved with his family to Saudi Arabia for eighteen months to research The Kingdom. He returned in 2005 and spent three years based in Jeddah and Riyadh, gathering material for the sequel, Inside the Kingdom, on the Saudi role in the post 9/11 years. Both books have been banned in Saudi Arabia.

Carool Kersten is a senior lecturer in the study of Islam & the Muslim world at King’s College London. Trained as an Arabist in the Netherlands, he lived and worked in Saudi Arabia for ten years, before returning to academia, obtaining a PhD from SOAS and taking his present position at King’s. His latest publication, a three-volume anthology entitled The Caliphate and Islamic Statehood, was released last week.