Subaltern Realism, Saudi Foreign Policy and the Arab-Israeli Conflict

  • Turki Mahmoud S Alawi

Student thesis: Phd


This study aims to provide a comprehensive analysis of Saudi foreign policy towards the Arab-Israeli Conflict. The study has three main aims: the discovery of the historical Saudi foreign policy towards the Arab-Israeli Conflict, an analysis of how far internal and external factors influence this foreign policy and the extent to which the foreign policy of Saudi Arabia can be explained by using a Subaltern Realism perspective. The study uses a case study research methodology, with the use of a secondary source analysis of official studies into Saudi foreign policy as the main form of research data. The results of the study found that there were internal and external factors that impacted tremendously upon Saudi foreign policy, underlining the developing nation status that is central to the Subaltern Realism perspective. The analysis shows that there is tension between the individual groups in Saudi society and the foreign policy that has developed. The relationship with the US has perhaps historically been the most dominant external influence on the development of Saudi Arabian foreign policy, with it often siding with peace in the region rather than the destruction of Israel. However, in recent years, the influence of internal groups has increased and the relative power and roles of the Ulama, liberals and Islamists have been vital in the development of foreign policy that has sought to become more independent of the US, as the country has become more confident in its position. The study concludes that the Subaltern realist perspective (although it has its limitations) is a far more effective way of identifying the impact that internal and external factors have on the development of Saudi Arabian foreign policy, than previous studies based upon a more traditional form of Realism. This study finds that the importance of domestic groups such as the Ulama, the Royal Family, liberal and the growing religious extremists have a determining influence on the development of foreign policy and, further, that the relative power that each has at any given time leads to the increase or decrease of the influence of international factors respectively. Overall, this research shows that the Arab-Israeli Conflict has had wide and important implications for the Saudi decision-making process because it is an issue that draws together and involves all of the many, complex and multi-faceted external and internal factors that impact on Saudi foreign policy decisions. The conclusion draws out the implications of this research and outlines some further recommendations for study
Date of Award31 Dec 2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorPeter Lawler (Supervisor) & Cristina Masters (Supervisor)

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