January 25, 2015 | Quote

Saudi’s New King Salman Likely to Stay the Course

Some Saudi watchers, such as analyst David Weinberg at the Foundation for Defense of Democracy, say the country has turned away from reform, especially since the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011.

Crackdowns on government critics, women's activists, perceived sorcerers and witches, as well as violent extremists were conducted by the Ministry of Interior, headed by the man Salman appointed to be second in line to succeed him, Muhammed bin Nayef, Weinberg said.

Among bin Nayef's victims: Blogger Raif Badawi, who wrote that Imam Muhammad ibn Saud Islamic University in Riyadh had become “a den for terrorists,” was convicted of insulting Islam and sentenced to 1,000 lashes, 10 years in prison and a fine.

Bin Nayef has also dealt with Islamist extremists with an iron hand in some ways, but his terrorist rehabilitation program does not challenge extremists' hatred of other religions, and results in “a very large number (who) return to violence,” Weinberg said.

The Saudis estimate the program's recidivism rate at 12%-20%, which they consider acceptable because repeat offenders are dealt with harshly, Smith said.

Read full article here.