Category Archives: Mohamed bin Salman

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.’

For MbS, Saudi Arabia will be just another possession

Mohamed bin Salman it has been revealed is the owner of the Château de Louveciennes, in western suburbs of Paris, which he bought for $300m two years ago. Added to his purchase of a $450m yacht and most recently the Leonardo painting of Christ for similar amount, bought through a minor prince in his household (Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud), this completes a fairly complete psychological profile of the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia.

Given what we know of MbS from these facts, a clear avaricious streak in his personality allows us to interpret recent actions taken against the rich in his country, including members of his family, as a desire to “own” Saudi Arabia singly. Together with his vicious launching of the Yemen War and his ill treatment of the Yemeni population, it is also clear he has little or no empathy. With no counter-balancing forces within the atavistic Saudi polity a ruthless and coercive tyranny is unfolding, which is unlikely to garner legitimacy whether by sticking to traditional Islamic modalities or indeed attempting to move on to more “secular” modalities.

In fact, the announcement that MbS seeks a more secular Saudi Arabia is tied to his wish to sideline resistance, but as the Wahhabi establishment will merely now roll over and do whatever he wishes, it is likely that the potentially destabilising effects of a move towards secularism, will be followed by a harsh return to such traditional Saudi-Islamic mores that help reinforce tyranny. Instinctively MbS is expecting the US and Israel to provide the support for his rule, where legitimacy will be absent. This will reinforce the decline of American influence in the region and reaffirm the continuing rise of Iran.