After years of being ruled by leaders in their 80s, the Gulf Arab states are getting younger rulers. These young leaders won’t necessarily gravitate to democratization, say RAND analysts Becca Wasser and Jeffrey Martini. But their rise does provide an opportunity for a much-needed update to U.S. strategy in the region:
Today’s 30-somethings in the Gulf are likely to associate democracy with the bloody 2003 Iraq War or the messy aftermath of the Arab Spring. They have seen fewer examples of democratization going right, unlike preceding generations that watched the fall of the Berlin Wall. A poll conducted in Saudi Arabia during the Arab Spring found that the oldest respondents were most likely to support democracy; the 26-35 group was the least likely. Young royals have come of age at the nadir of regional democratization.