The fall of the House of Saud is much to be wished, but very unlikely since the nation is ruled by a ruthless royal family and subservient clerical establishment which can always be counted on to issue edicts opposing dissent and supporting the corrupt rulers.
And, furthermore, the United States will likely be even more timid in voicing support for demonstrators in Saudi Arabia than it was in Egypt (where Obama was abysmal and never uttered the word democracy until Mubarak resigned). Furthermore, the Saudi military is not the professional force that exists in Egypt and Tunisia where both forces were restrained and eventually sided with the revolution. Until recently the Saudi armed forces were under the leadership of members of the royal family and tribal alliances and royal patronage are still deeply embedded in the force which may undermine cohesion and perhaps a willingness to fire on protesters.
The Saudis can also play the sectarian guard and dismiss the protests as simply the manifestation on ingrate Shi’as – 20% of the population and long discriminated against and attacked by the Wahhabi establishment as infidels.
Of course, oil largess and the ability to buy off dissent is a major factor as well. In short, ruthless leaders, vile clerics, Western backing, uncertain military conduct and oil wealth coalesce to make a Saudi revolution at this time quite arduous – if the factors are indeed not insurmountable.
But the Saudis may still be shaken to meet some demands, particularly on women’s rights: This fiercely misogynistic nation may finally allow women the right to drive and vote (in meaningless elections), and even pull back on many of the religious excesses.
That would not be democracy, but it would be a great improvement hard to imagine just weeks prior. At least it’s something, and some consolation for Saudi liberal reformers.