Bin Salman was the future once: desperate efforts by Netanhayu and the Christian Right cannot save him

Under pressure, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner,  Netanyahu, and Saudi and UAE paid lobbyists in Washington are arguing vehemently that unseating Mohamed bin Salman would destabilise the Saudi Kingdom as a whole. A delegation of right-wing Christian Evangelicals visited bin Salman to give him their political backing and positive coverage in their media outlets in the US, to try to tip the balance in the fraught atmosphere surrounding the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.

The arguments put forward acknowledge what are now called bin Salman’s proven “missteps”: the arrests of women activists, diplomatic crises with Germany and Canada, the “imbroglio” surrounding thye kidnap of Saad Hariri, the Qatar boycott, and the “misfiring” war on Yemen. But then it is maintained that to remove bin Salman as crown prince is “neither realistic nor prudent”, and that he must remain for the Saudi state to endure and for the sake of stability in the Middle East region.

In the Al-Jazeera documentary above Mohammed Mukhtar al-Shanqiti disagrees that the Saudi state needs him to survive, and that any support from the Christian Right can tip the scales on the extreme pressures Trump now faces to let go of him. Furthermore, if bin Salman had one iota of credibility left on the Arab Street, that is now shot to pieces after the airing of the video of his meeting with the delegation of Christian right-wingers.

Al-Shanqiti takes special exception to the concept of stability as it is being pushed by Kushner et al which, he maintains, reeks of racism and hypocrisy. It is clear from the discourse that stability for Arab countries is only understood in the context of the imposition of tyrannical régimes and reckless despots, such that stability becomes synonymous with tyranny. In the American and European contexts, of course, stability is only ever understood as being based on democracy.

In his recent article David Hearst concurs that Mohammed bin Salman’s political future is narrowing quickly: ‘After a prolonged absence in London, his uncle and nemesis, Prince Ahmad bin Abdulaziz, returned home to a hero’s welcome. Senior princes have flocked to greet him, at the airport and receptions held afterwards. The welcome includes heavyweights like former intelligence chief Khaled bin Bandar, former deputy defence minister Khaled bin Sultan, and former crown prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz.’

Hearst goes on: ‘It is telling that no photographs have emerged so far of Prince Ahmad with Mohammed bin Salman, although there are reports that bin Salman and his brother, Khaled bin Salman, greeted him at the airport.

Bin Salman, in less than a week, has gone from strutting the world stage to circling the wagons. His initial arrogance is well documented. Just reread the interview he gave to Bloomberg a few days after Khashoggi’s murder. It took a while for reality to dawn on him about the scale of the problems he faced.

There are two scenarios now for Ahmad to pursue. The first is to get bin Salman to strike a deal. He abandons his position as crown prince along with his security portfolio, defence ministry, interior ministry and security services. In exchange, he retains his role as an economic reformer.

The second is to go for his defenestration. The chairmanship of the Allegiance Council, which nominally at least vets and approves royal appointments, is vacant after the death of Meshaal bin Abdulaziz. If Ahmad were nominated chairman of the body, he would play the role of kingmaker.’