This post is also available in: العربية

A new study of Saudi Arabia will be among titles shown by Bloomsbury at next week’s virtual Frankfurt Book Fair.  Vision or Mirage – Saudi Arabia at the Crossroads is by David Rundell, a former US diplomat who spent fifteen years in the Kingdom working at the Embassy in Riyadh as well as the Consulates in Jeddah and Dhahran.  He is one of the most respected commentators on the country, described by Professor Bernard Haykel of the Department of Near East Studies at Princeton as “America’s most knowledgeable diplomat on Saudi Arabia”.

The book has just been published by Bloomsbury’s IB Tauris imprint – Bloomsbury bought the publisher IB Tauris, famous for its Middle East studies list, in 2018.  Arabic and other foreign rights are still available.

Randell says that the principle theme of the book is how Vision 2030, the Crown Prince’s blueprint for the country’s future, ‘will affect the long-established balance between tradition and change that has kept Saudi Arabia stable’.  He believes the country is in the midst of a ‘remarkable, difficult and unsettling period of change.  Vision 2030 is the most radical set of economic and social reforms seen there for half a century.  A new found sense of urgency and optimism has replaced the glacial pace of change that long characterized the kingdom’.

He argues that the Crown Prince is ‘promoting a more tolerant brand of Islam’ but asks: ‘Is this a new vision for Saudi Arabia or merely a mirage likely to dissolve into a more autocratic police state, or an Iranian-style religious revolution?’

Rundell is respected in the Kingdom where he has many high level contacts.  His assignments in Saudi Arabia have included the Chief of Mission, Charge d’Affaires, Deputy Chief of Mission, Political Counselor, Economic Counselor and Commercial Counselor.

After studying Arabic at Oxford, he served as an American diplomat in Washington, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates.  He has won numerous awards for his analytical reporting and he was a close observer of the Saudi accession into the World Trade Organization in 2005 and the defeat of al-Qaeda’s terror campaign in Saudi Arabia.  He lives in Dubai and London, travels regularly to the Kingdom and is a partner in the Consulting Firm Arabia Analytica.