Something extraordinary is happening in Saudi Arabia. A traditional, tribal society once known for its lack of tolerance is rapidly implementing significant economic and social reforms. An army of foreign consultants is rewriting the social contract, King Salman has cracked down hard on corruption, and his dynamic though inexperienced son, the Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, is promoting a more tolerant Islam. But is all this a new vision for Saudi Arabia or merely a mirage likely to dissolve into Iranian-style revolution?

In his book, Vision or Mirage: Saudi Arabia at the Crossroads, David Rundell - one of America's foremost experts on Saudi Arabia - explains how the country has been stable for so long, why it is less so today, and what is most likely to happen in the future. The book is based on the author's close contacts and intimate knowledge of the country where he spent 15 years living and working as a diplomat. Vision or Mirage demystifies one of the most powerful, but least understood, states in the Middle East and is essential reading for anyone interested in the power dynamics and politics of the Arab World.

This event will be moderated by MEI Faculty Director Tarek Masoud

David Rundell is widely regarded as one of America’s foremost experts on Saudi Arabia. He is the author of Vision or Mirage: Saudi Arabia at the Crossroads, which has been acclaimed by numerous scholars and statesmen including Dr. Henry Kissinger and General David Petraeus.

The New York Times has written: "I wish that every United States diplomat, military officer and journalist would read this book before deploying to Saudi Arabia." The Wall Street Journal has called Vision or Mirage “a book of staggering breadth and depth.” London’s Financial Times has called the book "exceptional" and "analytically rigorous", adding that it is "unlikely to be bettered".

David served as an American diplomat for thirty years, fifteen of which were spent in Saudi Arabia. He worked at the Embassy in Riyadh as well as the Consulates in Jeddah and Dhahran. His assignments included Chief of Mission, Deputy Chief of Mission, Political Counselor, Economic Counselor, and Commercial Counselor - A unique record for an American diplomat, not only in Saudi Arabia, but in any country.

David helped negotiate Saudi entry into the World Trade Organization. He conceived the Joint Commission for Critical Infrastructure Protection which has strengthened global energy security. He served in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm in 1990 and during the al-Qaeda insurrection from 2003-2003. He won numerous awards for his analysis and reporting from Saudi Arabia including four Superior Honor Awards and the Cobb award, which is given each year to the Foreign Service Office who has made the greatest contribution to American trade policy.

After leaving the State Department David worked as a business strategy consultant with Monitor/Deloitte. For the past five years, David has been a partner in Arabia Analytica, a consulting firm which advises hedge funds and corporate clients on Saudi Arabia and the broader Middle East.

David has been actively engaged in the production of oil and gas in the Permian Basin of West Texas and New Mexico for over 30 years. He is a member of the American Foreign Service Association, the Permian Basin Petroleum Association, the Union League Club in New York and the Travellers Club in London. He holds a B.A. cum laude in economics from Colgate University and a M.Phil. in Middle East Studies from Oxford University. He lives in London and Dubai with his wife and daughter