Kuwait City — SAUDI ARABIA has emerged from the war almost unscathed physically and economically. Indeed, Riyadh is likely to continue to profit by making up for Iraq's and Kuwait's reduced oil output, and some Saudi businessmen are already showing an interest in helping to rebuild the tiny emirate. Of all the Gulf states, Saudi Arabia has come out the big winner. King Fahd's forces played a highly visible role in the liberation of Kuwait, and Riyadh is well-placed to anchor a new Middle East alignment along with Egypt and Syria.
However, if changes to the regional balance of power work in the Saudi ruler's favor, changes at home may not be so welcome. The Gulf crisis has torn the lid off a Pandora's box of questions about the kingdom's political and social structure.
On one side are modernizers who seek, if not democracy in the Western sense, a louder voice for ordinary Saudis in government policy and less rigid social mores. Against them stand religious conservatives arguing for even stricter application of Islamic law. Holding center stage, with authority strengthened by the crisis, are King Fahd and the royal family.