As if Saudi Arabia did not already have enough worries in a fast-changing Middle East, another crisis recently hit home for the desert kingdom: the arrest of 11 princess and former ministers. The move ordered by King Salman and carried out by his impulsive son, crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) could mark the beginning of the end for the kingdom.
While the 82-year-old monarch’s health is in bad shape, questions are emerging as to whether king Salman could abdicate the throne to his son [MBS] before he [King] dies. What most analysts agree on is that the 32 years old crown prince, MBS, made a fatal mistake by his firing of one prince—the head of the Saudi Arabian National Guard. To me it looks like MBS’s bold, brash, and even anti-corruption crusade is not aimed at eliminating corruption. Rather it’s aimed at targeting his rivals so that he will have absolute power. Opening Saudi Arabia for more transparency and freedom is nonsense!
Against this backdrop, I wonder what the next move is for these marginalized and detained royal princes. More than ever, the campaign of arrests and detention is already coalescing into a major political storm, significantly increasing the risk of instability not only within the kingdom but also across the greater, strife-torn Middle East.
This turn of events comes on the heels of shocking news. London’s Guardian credits claims by an anonymous Saudi prince that two letters have circulated among senior members of the royal family encouraging them to stage a coup against King Salman. The rationale is the king and his 32-year-old son, Crown Prince MBS, are implementing dangerous policies that are leading the kingdom to political, economic and military ruin. Disclosure of these memos raises serious concerns. Could MBS experience similar faith like that of King Faisal in 1975? Possibly!
Undoubtedly, MBS has amassed more power in the last two years than any member of the Al-Saud monarchy. Apparently, MBS is on a power trip to the point of disregarding and changing the protocol vis-à-vis royal succession. Of note: MBS neither held position of significance within the Saudi government before nor has experience to lead. How ironic that MBS, by royal decree, is in a charge of the kingdom’s primary source of wealth, Saudi Aramco. Go figure!
Make no mistake: when royal infighting erupts and openly reveals itself to the outside world, it will mark the start of the end for Saudi Arabia as we know it. Far-reaching consequences will resound not only economically and politically but also religiously and geopolitically.
What MBS refuses to accept is that the kingdom, since its creation in 1932, has been ruled by consensus. He believes that he can change that by the whim of few arrests and intimidation. Alas, it’s typical of Arab/Muslim leaders (with very few exceptions) who think they’re granted some divine right to rule with an iron fist and forever. One wonders why the Muslim/Arab world lags behind.
While dozens of leading businessmen and princes have been arrested, two men stood out in terms of their potential to threaten MBS’s ascension to the throne: Prince Mansour bin Muqrin, who died in a helicopter crash near Yemen last week, and Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah, who has been removed as head of Saudi Arabia’s National Guard.
The National Guard is a potent force within Saudi Arabia and is but one of many potential pools of discontent. MBS’s sudden change of decades of rule by consensus and consultation in favor of determined tyranny has undoubtedly made enemies of hundreds, if not thousands, of wealthy and influential princes and businessmen. These princesses and businesspersons are unlikely to wait for their invitation to the Ritz Carlton (now used as a detention center for princesses).
Where from here? As I argue in my previous writings, the kingdom is bound to experience major political instability, a gloomy economic outlook given the drop in oil prices, a regional and global isolation because of its ongoing atrocities in Yemen, and, now, royal succession issues. Looks to me like Saudi Arabia is in demise!