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Saudi Arabia Prospects for the 21st Century Background In 1932 various tribes of the Arabian Peninsula were united by Abdul Aziz bin Abdul Rahman The tribes forged an alliance with the Al Saud family who has ruled over the kingdom since The partnership developed a legitimizing framework for their rule Their state was based on the strict adherence to Islamic values unity and cohesion among domestic groups and the wealth accumulated from oil reserves Successive Saudi rulers have ensured their survival through a shared sense of ideology and a strong understanding of order Traditionally the successor to the throne has been one of the surviving sons of King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud the first king and founder of the modern state of Saudi Arabia This process had not been expressly clarified until 1992 when King Fahd issued an edict elaborating the procedure of succession to the throne Today the Saudi-tribal alliance is being contested by radical elements Both religious and secular opposition forces are questioning the ideological principles of the Al Saud regime Militant Islamic groups fear the domination of the royal family will detract from the Islamic roots of the state The Al Sauds religious status is an important pillar of their rule as they host two of the three holiest sites of Islam Mecca and Medina In the 1990s the Al Saud rule seemed to be heading for a period of instability In 1993-94 the country experienced a financial crisis The United States military presence in the state had angered traditional Islamic forces In November 1995 an US-run Saudi National Guard installation in Riyadh was bombed in apparent retaliation for the execution of an opposition activist in August After the beheading of four Saudis in connection with the attack a much more devastating bomb killed 19 United States servicemen in military barracks in Khobar The Committee for the Defense of Human Rights CDLR had led
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