The kingdom may have stretched its current limits by extracting a record of around 10.7 million bpd this year... one reason why Riyadh pushed so hard for a global deal to cut production. Riyadh... felt the burn of cheap oil this year...as the reality of its costly war in Yemen and the task of shaking up its economy to create thousands of jobs began to sink in. The government is trying to boost non-oil revenue and modernize the economy through an ambitious reform plan called "Vision 2030."

Saudi Arabia is critical because of its unique position in the Afghan conflict: It is on both sides. A longtime ally of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia has backed Islamabad’s promotion of the Taliban. Over the years, wealthy Saudi sheikhs and rich philanthropists have also stoked the war by privately financing the insurgents ... the Saudis — through private or covert channels — have tacitly supported the Taliban in ways that make the kingdom an indispensable power broker.

The first installment of the loan, $2.75 billion, was immediately disbursed. Of late the relationship with Saudi Arabia has deteriorated, and Egypt has found itself cut off by its Saudi benefactor. Expected levels of revenue from an expansion of the Suez Canal have not materialized. In addition, remittances from Egyptian workers in the Persian Gulf have dropped. The monetary fund’s loan will... signal confidence in the government, making Egypt more attractive to foreign investors.

Yemen’s 18-month civil war has killed about 10,000 people, and now it is pushing the country to the brink of famine. More than 21 million Yemenis — 80% of the population — are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. Much of Yemen’s poverty is due to dire water shortages. Yemen’s conflict has been characterized as a proxy war between Shi’ite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia. Yemen’s domestic conflict over the inability to produce consensus... has now escalated into an intractable multi-party war.

King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) is the world’s largest privately funded city. Located about 100 kilometers north of Jeddah on the coast of the Red Sea, KAEC is a public–private partnership with the government of Saudi Arabia; it is built with private capital, independently of oil revenue. KAEC is an image of what Saudi Arabia could look like without hydrocarbons: a trade and logistics gateway offering companies access to a fast-growing regional market of 620 million people.

Saudi leaders seek good relations with the West and see jihadist violence as a menace that could endanger their rule, especially now that the Islamic State is staging attacks in the kingdom — 25 in the last eight months, by the government’s count. But they are also driven by their rivalry with Iran, and they depend for legitimacy on a clerical establishment dedicated to a reactionary set of beliefs. Those conflicting goals can play out in a bafflingly inconsistent manner.

In public, most women wear baggy black gowns...to hide their forms, as well as veils that cover their hair and faces, with only thin slits for their eyes ... Many Saudis mix in private, and men and women can usually meet in hotel lobbies with little problem. Others do not want to mix and see gender segregation as part of their cultural identity. In some conservative circles, men go their whole lives without seeing the faces of women other than their immediate family — even their brothers’ wives.

science diplomacy—whereby experts collaborate scientifically to address common problems and build constructive international partnerships—has more potential than is often recognized. Science diplomacy can of course help countries solve on-the-ground challenges and improve standards of living for their citizens. But it can also lay groundwork for improving relations in a region often defined by tension (if not outright conflict) through functional, scientific cooperation that is less politicized.

By 2030, the number of Saudis over the age of 15 will likely increase by about six million, bringing at least 4.5 million new eligible workers into the labor force, ...That will more than double the size of the adult population, simultaneously stretching the kingdom’s cradle-to-grave system of handouts and subsidies to the breaking point...

Saudi money and influence have transformed this once-tolerant Muslim society at the hem of Europe into a font of Islamic extremism and a pipeline for jihadists.Kosovo now finds itself, like the rest of Europe, fending off the threat of radical Islam. Over the last two years, the police have identified 314 Kosovars — including two suicide bombers, 44 women and 28 children — who have gone abroad to join the Islamic State, the highest number per capita in Europe.