Saudi Arabia: land of oil, terrorism, Islamic fundamentalism, and a crucial American ally. As the only Western journalist to have extensively worked in the Saudi Kingdom, John R. Bradley is uniquely able to expose the turmoil that is shaking the House of Saud to its foundations. From the heart of the secretive Islamic kingdom's urban centers to its most remote mountainous terrain, from the homes of royalty to the slums of its poorest inhabitants, he provides intimate details and reveals underlying regional, religious, and tribal rivalries. Bradley highlights tensions generated by social change, focuses on the educational system, the increasing restlessness of Saudi youth faced with limited opportunities for cultural and political expression, and the predicament of Saudi women seeking opportunities but facing constraints. What are the implications for the Sauds and the West? This book offers a startling look at the present predicament and a troubling view of the future.
An Arabic-speaking Westerner who seized a rare opportunity to travel freely throughout Saudi Arabia, Bradley offers a dense, abstract study that reads more like the "culture and history" section of a guidebook than a juicy, insider account. But Bradley did get access to high-profile Saudis, most memorably to Osama bin Laden's nephew, with whom Bradley went on a picnic. An accomplished journalist and scholar who prefers facts to sensory-let alone salacious-details, Bradley successfully compiles research, information, geographical data and flat-footed descriptions of observed events to explain the political dynamics and historical roots of a strong authoritarian state, characterized particularly by the close relation between the Al-Saud ruling family and the conservative Wahhabis. He conveys a sense of a country fraught with fear, hostility and suspicion while remaining aloof from much of the drama he describes. Bradley is at his best when he writes about the press, providing what is truly an insider's look and untangling some of the knotted ties between the media, the Saudi government and the United States.