THE SAUDI PURGE : THE KINGDOM ENTERING A UNPREDICTABLE ERA

john70

Regular Member
Joined
Nov 23, 2011
Messages
708
Likes
1,015
Country flag
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-...into-unpredictable-new-era-kemp-idUSKBN1D620Q


The wave of arrests and ministerial changes in Saudi Arabia at the weekend has fundamentally transformed the structure of the state as it has existed since the 1960s.

Saudi Arabia has practiced a form of collective leadership since the death of the founder King Abdulazziz in 1953 and especially since the abdication of his son King Saud in 1964.

The crown has descended among the younger sons of Abdulazziz, with each son and his family tending to control one element of the state.

Prince Faisal and then his son controlled the foreign ministry for decades. Prince Sultan controlled the defense ministry; Prince Nayef, the interior ministry and security forces.

Prince Abdullah controlled the National Guard, a well-armed militia recruited from the royal family’s traditional tribal supporters. And Prince Salman served as governor of Riyadh.

The system was intended to avoid the concentration of too much power in any one branch of the family and give all the sons of the founding king a stake in it.

While formal power has always resided with the monarch, in practice the king was expected to consult with other senior members of the royal family and rule by consensus.

The Saudi system of government has been more prime-ministerial than presidential.

In fact, the king has always been concurrently the prime minister, while the crown prince has served as deputy prime minister, and other senior princes have served as ministers in a formal cabinet.

But the system has been fundamentally altered in a number of important ways since the death of King Abdullah and the accession of King Salman in 2015.

POWER CONSOLIDATION
King Abdullah was predeceased by both his intended successors, Prince Sultan and Prince Nayef, so the crown passed to Prince Salman.

Prince Muqrin, an even younger son of King Abdulazziz, was designated as crown prince and heir apparent, but had little institutional power or influence within the royal family.

Muqrin was replaced a few months later by Mohammed bin Nayef, one of the sons of Prince Nayef, who had inherited control of the interior ministry and the security forces from his late father.

In turn, Mohammed bin Nayef was replaced as crown prince by the king’s own son, Mohammed bin Salman, in 2017.

Mohammed bin Salman had already become defense minister, thereby ending the control that Sultan’s family had previously exercised over the armed forces.

With the removal of Mohammed bin Nayef as crown prince and interior minister, the Nayef family’s control of the interior ministry was also effectively ended.

The last remaining “power ministry” was the National Guard, where control had been inherited by King Abdullah’s son Prince Miteb.

So the decision this weekend to remove Prince Miteb has eliminated the last remaining independent power base within the royal family.

For the first time, all three power ministries (defense, interior and National Guard) are under the direct control of one branch of the royal family.

Personnel changes for lower-ranked cabinet positions, sub-cabinet posts and provincial governors over the last three years have all removed independent power brokers and reinforced the concentration of power.

Control over all elements of the state has steadily consolidated power in the hands of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

ANTI-CORRUPTION CAMPAIGN
Saudi Arabia’s internal power dynamics are also changing in other important ways.

The cardinal rule has always been that disputes are settled quietly within the royal family, without the involvement of outsiders.

Princes were expected to show loyalty to the king and avoid overt calls for change in the system. In exchange, their personal security and wealth were respected.

Ostentatious displays of wealth have been discouraged and occasionally censured, but for the most part, princes have been free to accumulate money and business interests.

But in a fundamental breach with past practice, King Salman and his son have launched an anti-corruption campaign and arrested ministers and officials suspected of taking bribes and embezzlement.

The progressive removal of senior princes from government over the last three years, and now the wave of arrests of princes and ministers, is jeopardizing the safety and wealth of royal family members for the first time.

Corruption has been rife in Saudi Arabia for decades and has drained fabulous amounts of wealth from the state into private hands, with much of it ending up abroad.

But corruption exists as part of a vast patronage system which ties together the royal family, the state bureaucracy and large parts of society in patron-client networks.

The anti-corruption campaign and decision to arrest senior ministers and even princes is therefore targeting the very structure of the Saudi state.

Whether this is a good thing depends on your view. Power-sharing and clientelism have underpinned the stability of the Saudi state but are also blamed for its inability to change and adapt.

APPEAL TO YOUNG SAUDIS
Saudi Arabia’s high birth-rate and declining infant mortality have seen a surge in the population over the last four decades with the result that the majority of the population is under 30 years old.

The biggest social and economic challenge for the kingdom is finding enough well-paid jobs for the hundreds of thousands of young Saudis entering the workforce each year.

Unemployment and under-employment are widespread, as is frustration with the fierce system of social and religious controls introduced after the siege at the Grand Mosque in Mecca by Islamist militants in 1979.

As part of his bid to consolidate power, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has explicitly courted support from younger Saudis with promises of social liberalization, jobs and faster change.

The anti-corruption campaign is likely to be very popular with younger Saudis frustrated by stagnating economic opportunities, but it threatens much of the country’s business, political and social establishment.

In any political system, anti-corruption campaigns are a powerful way to bid for popular support to settle intra-elite battles.

In ancient Rome, rulers used corruption charges to eliminate enemies. England’s King Henry VIII used corruption charges against his powerful minister Cardinal Wolsey and the monasteries.


China’s President Xi Jinping has successfully used anti-corruption to reshape China’s Communist Party. And U.S. President Donald Trump is trying his own version with promises to “drain the swamp”.

POLITICAL RISKS
The concentration of so much power in Saudi Arabia in one branch of the royal family introduces a new dynamic to the country’s government and heightens risk, though it also makes bold reforms more likely.

Recent events have sidelined other branches of the family and for the first time threatened their security, so the crown prince has made many enemies, though he may also have reduced their power to challenge him.

Collective leadership has been replaced by a much more personal form of rule, which also means that the crown prince will be held personally accountable for the government’s performance.

If the crown prince’s economic and social transformation plan was to falter or fail, his control is now at greater risk. The Saudi state therefore needs a swift return to economic growth and job creation.

In terms of oil policy, the Saudi state can ill-afford another decline in prices, decline in oil revenues and resumption of austerity.

The Saudi state’s existing preference for $70 oil (even at the risk of reviving U.S. shale production) rather than $50 oil (and risk a return to austerity) will become more pronounced.

Given the delicate political and economic context, Saudi Arabia will prefer to risk tightening the oil market too much rather than too little.
 

john70

Regular Member
Joined
Nov 23, 2011
Messages
708
Likes
1,015
Country flag
Saudi Arabia detained some its powerful citizens and rivals to Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman under cover of a corruption inquiry Saturday.

The arrests are the latest in a series of power plays by Bin Salman to consolidate power in the Kingdom. Bin Salman was recently elevated to the role of Crown Prince at the age of 32 by his father, bypassing the traditional Saudi line of succession. He has vowed to take Saudi Arabia in a more modern direction, pledging a return to a more moderate view of Islam and reportedly spearheading efforts to allow women to drive. Many of these initiatives have been opposed by Saudi Arabia’s older ruling class.

“Some of the most powerful figures in Saudi Arabia were detained,” U.S. based intelligence advisory firm The Soufan Group noted in its daily intelligence brief Monday. These figures included ultra-rich Saudi investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, son the late Saudi King and head of the Royal guard Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah, and Osama Bin-Laden’s oldest brother. Bin-Laden’s brother is a well known construction mogul in the country.

ABC News also reported that the arrest included “Alwalid al-Ibrahim, a Saudi businessman with ties to the royal family who runs the Arabic satellite group MBC; Amr al-Dabbagh, the former head of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority; Ibrahim Assaf, a former finance minister.”


“In historic terms, what we’ve seen in the last few months is nothing short of revolutionary,” Saudi Arabia expert Robert Lacey told CNN of the internal machinations. The Soufan Center similarly noted that “Crown Prince Prince Mohammad bin Salman has succeeded in controlling all three Saudi security services, while cowing both conservative and reform-minded clerics — an unprecedented consolidation of power in the country’s history.”

H.A. Hellyer of the Atlantic Council noted to NPR Sunday “the message that it definitely sends across Saudi society is that the crown prince has a particular vision in mind for how – for where he wants his country to go. He’s in the driver’s seat. And everybody better get on with bending the knee.”
 

sorcerer

Senior Member
Joined
Apr 13, 2013
Messages
23,966
Likes
83,398
Country flag
Not an unpredictable ERA when the USA is still around in Saauhdi. :D
 

LordOfTheUnderworlds

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 9, 2013
Messages
1,299
Likes
1,378
Country flag
Strangely there was not any big effect on crude oil prices despite such huge developments. Normally even small news makes oil very volatile; or used to do.
 
Last edited:

indiazain

Regular Member
Joined
Oct 25, 2016
Messages
250
Likes
395
Country flag
Sweet revenge for Trump.Hopefully he turns Saudi and the middle east into Syria (after taking their oil and money) soon.Its time for the world to show these middle eastern scumbags their proper place.
 

Flame Thrower

Senior Member
Joined
Apr 16, 2016
Messages
1,676
Likes
2,721
This is the handy work of father and son (Muhammad Bin Salman)....

But if Muhammad Bin Nayef's supporter kills Muhammad Bin Salman on the very day of crowning what would happen.....

Nayef is a tough guy....he survived 4 assassin attempts, cracked Al Queda and other Terrorists activities and maintained KSA intelligence agency for a long time. Surprisingly Nayef is all quiet about what is happening....Nayef never made any voice.

Why would he allow it to happen!!?? Especially he dreamt of Throne for more than 2 yrs. If you ask me...then this is a kind of insult. Kings will take anything but insult. His survival of assassin attempts (4 of'em) states that he couldn't have chickened out. Is he planning secretly. After all he was intelligence Chief.

He could have smelled threat or his sub-ordinates have warned him over the threat when Bin Salman was made second crown prince and anytime king could promote his son(Bin Salman) as crown prince....

Sure CIA or some other might run the show but Nayef might have at least one person loyal to him and not dead yet. Then again what the fuck is actually going on.....

Should it sound funny that KSA purchased 110 billion worth arms from USA when Bin Salman is defense minister. He also purchased lots of stuff from Russia too. Soon the arresting and even killing of princes and high officials followed... Now Salman is threatening Iran.

My questions are
What the fuck is happening in the Kingdom!?
Why the fuck Nayef is quiet!?
Was Arms purchase and coup in the KSA linked!?
Will this Carnage hurt China in the near future!? As China gets lots of oil from KSA; CIA and Trump are kind of supporting the coup in KSA.
 

F-14B

#iamPUROHIT
Senior Member
Joined
Aug 13, 2016
Messages
2,075
Likes
3,992
What the fuck is happening in the Kingdom!?
what is happening is a classical Arabian Power play
Why the fuck Nayef is quiet!?
Nayef is quite because he has no more power any more and if he raises any more noises on the current happening in the Kingdom he will simply end up having an "accident" and dead so better to shut it

Was Arms purchase and coup in the KSA linked!?

as is the KSA has been on a arms buying binge sinces the late 2000's the coup de ete has been brewing ever sinces the Prince entered the areana in 15 December 2009 as a special advisor to his father when the latter was the governor of Riyadh Province and thus has no links to the coupe in progress
Will this Carnage hurt China in the near future!?
yes that is why you see the CPC has diversified its option and china can always bank on Mother Russia for her oil needs if they want also they do have options like Iran Angola and Nigeria too so Chinese are cool
 

Flame Thrower

Senior Member
Joined
Apr 16, 2016
Messages
1,676
Likes
2,721
And for discussion sake....

What would happen if Salman is assassinated on the crowning day. After all it takes one man with a gun.
 

F-14B

#iamPUROHIT
Senior Member
Joined
Aug 13, 2016
Messages
2,075
Likes
3,992
@Flame Thrower look at the guys that the prince has arrested
Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal,
who is a big fish with a net worth of a cool $16.8 billion and have controlling stakes in Kingdom Holding Company; 91-percent ownership of Rotana Video and Audio Visual Company; 90-percent ownership of the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation; seven-percent ownership of News Corporation; about six-percent ownership of Citigroup, and a 17-percent ownership of Al Nahar and a 25-percent ownership of Ad-Diyar (two daily newspapers published in Lebanon). Al-Waleed topped the first Saudi Rich List in 2009, with assets of $16.3 billion
He owns several aircraft converted for private use: a Boeing 747,[72] an Airbus 321 and a Hawker Siddeley 125. Al-Waleed was the first individual to purchase an Airbus A380 and was due to take delivery of it in the spring of 2013, but it was sold before delivery

Mutaib II bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud

this fellow is the fomer head of the all powerful the Saudi Arabian National Guard which is the Pritorian guard of the House of saud also known as the White Army is one of the three major branches of the Royal armed forces
The SANG was founded as the successor to the Ikhwan, the tribal army of King Abdulazizguarding against military coups, guarding strategic facilities and resources, and providing security for the cities of Mecca and Medina. and also reports directly to the HH so with the aresst of the former commander or mudir as it is known the Prince has extinguished the claim to power of the family of the fommer King as the arrested fellow was the son of the fomer King Fahad
 

F-14B

#iamPUROHIT
Senior Member
Joined
Aug 13, 2016
Messages
2,075
Likes
3,992
And for discussion sake....

What would happen if Salman is assassinated on the crowning day. After all it takes one man with a gun.
that is why he has now taken control of the SANG as posted in the above post the SANG is the praetorian guard of the royal family
 

john70

Regular Member
Joined
Nov 23, 2011
Messages
708
Likes
1,015
Country flag
Trouble in House of Saud: Dysfunctional dynasty grapples with upheaval as crown prince makes intriguing moves


Trouble has been coming to the House of Saud for some time, perhaps even from a few hundred years ago


After all, a royal house as dysfunctional and trouble-prone as it is hard to find. The Saudi state was founded by a small time Bedouin chieftain, Mani Al Muraidi in the fifteenth Century.


File image of King Salman (left) and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman). AP

The family remained undistinguished until a couple of great-grandsons later, an alliance was arranged for marriage into a devout Sunni revivalist family of Mohammad Ibn abd al Wahab. This led directly to the waging of a holy war to purify Islam, and thereafter the founding of the first Saudi state. That state, however, didn’t last long. In 1803 it disappeared for all intents and purposes, amid a series of internecine wars and incursions by other tribes.

It was Abd al Aziz, a direct descendant of the founder Mohammad Ibn al Saud, who rounded up some 60 brothers and cousins, in an attempt to reestablish Saud rule with the help of the puritan Ikhwan. The state then reemerged and then nearly again disappeared a couple of times more as royal princes were assassinated, and bickering cousins took over. In the end it was World War I which led to consolidation of the House of Saud, when Britain backed the ambitious prince in the fight against the Ottomans.

Prince Abdul Aziz however can take credit for expanding his dominions to include the two holy cities of Mecca and Medina, and maneuvering successfully between the British, the Ottoman Empire, and various other power centres. To consolidate his hold, he married a daughter from every major tribe and prominent clerical families thereby counting up some 300 wives and ending up with 45 grandsons.

Two aspects are relevant to the present situation: First, while Aziz was of the correct lineage, he was not the senior most. His youth—he was all of twenty when he set out on his first military expedition—was not a factor. What counted was his ability to subdue enemies and enlarge the fortunes of his family, and possibly, of his people.

Today, the House of Saud is returning to these principles, at a time when the direct line to the originator has finally run out, and the field is open to some 1,200-1,500 prominent princes, among 30,000 to 40,000 of the royal family as a whole. The present King Salman—decrepit as he is—is probably the last of the sons of the man who laid the foundations for the house of Saud. It’s been a long haul.

Experts are right in saying that transitions to the throne have usually been smooth, without any public evidence of discord or enmity Succession has usually been brother to brother, with weightage given to the direct line. Unsurprisingly, the age of successive kings went higher as time passed, with King Salman ascending the throne in his seventies.

An appointed king was, however, careful to keep the many factions happy with a balance of portfolios, and though a dictator, had also to ensure a degree of consensus for significant shifts in policy. However, trouble has always lurked. The profligate King Saud was removed quietly by his brother Crown Prince Faisal, who was, in turn, assassinated by his half-brother’s son.

Nonetheless, the clan hung together, and the family of the assassinated leader was and continues to be given due respect. The assassin prince was publicly executed. This kind of inverted democracy was approved of by the populace, and matters went along fine.

The seamless transition of power seemed to be more or less intact, when King Salman appointed another brother, Prince Muqrim, who was all of 69, as the heir in January 2015. That lasted a bare three months, before he was set aside in favour of a grandson of the founder, Mohammed bin Nayef as crown prince and heir apparent. The brother to brother principle was set aside, but it still seemed reasonable, since it was felt that the new crown prince was vastly more experienced, and had a better lineage.

Muqrin’s mother was said to have been a Yemeni slave which would have, at any rate, made his succession difficult. In retrospect, however, it seemed the king was merely biding his time. Together with the appointment of a crown prince, who at the time was in his late fifties, he also appointed a new deputy crown prince who was in his late twenties. The relative importance usually given to age had been set aside for Prince Mohammad bin Salman or MBS as he is now called.

Within a short time, MBS was given more power than had been enjoyed by any prince, heir apparent or otherwise. Apart from the Defense Ministry, he was also head of the Council on Economic and Development Affairs at a time when the kingdom's oil wealth was under considerable stress due to falling prices.

A few months later he was made head of the company Aramco, which, with a market value of around $2-8 trillion, made it one of the most valuable companies in the world. His attempts to undercut the competition with cheap oil didn’t work, and US frackers simply bided their time. How much Aramco lost in the process is unclear.

The actions of the crown prince over the last year have been interesting. First, he has pursued a more divisive sectarian agenda that has targeted Shia's in the east, as well as through statements against Iran. This pleases the Wahabi power centres who once backed a young prince to form Saudi Arabia as a state. It also pleases the jihadis, who are, incidentally, part of the Kingdom’s fight in Syria.

Second, he has launched a war against the Houthis in Yemen, an opponent of no mean stature who soundly thrashed Saudi forces in 2009. This however, provides the underbelly of military expansionism that is so vital to providing public muscle to a new leader. Third, he has gone out of his way to woo the United States, not only with hugely lucrative defense contracts, but also by buying into President Donald Trump’s Israel policy.

With this he has ensured that he has rises in the pecking order in West Asia. His across-the-board arrests and detentions are publicly justified as a drive against corruption. This pleases a public that has long watched impotently as the several thousand princes leech the state of its riches in varying degrees. Public anger has been growing over the last few years following the reverberations of the Arab Spring as it swept across the region.

The Kingdom witnessed one of its rare public protests in 2009 and 2011 against the inept handling of floods in Jeddah. The issue caused considerable debate on the ineptitude of the government and corruption. MBS has now given directions to his Anti-Corruption Committee to focus on the issue, even while he arrests apparently corrupt elements within the palace.

For almost a century, the house of Saud has stood fast by keeping with traditions in terms of lineage, associations and general policy. This has now been upended in a political atmosphere where no direct descendant is available, and a palace full of aspirants waiting in the wings. MBS seems to be reverting to the era when the founder King Abd al Aziz laid the foundations of the house of Saud by playing one power centre against another to keep his kingdom together.

Whether he will succeed or make matters worse will depend heavily on a regional climate that seems to be setting Saudi Arabia to the side, as it proceeds with its business, particularly with Russian help.

The unknown factor is the United States. While Trump has backed the prince to the hilt, there is no surety that this will continue. It once took a World War to glue the Saudi state together. It is to be hoped that another massive war will not happen on the lines that are being drawn on the ground. No amount of persuasive arguments and moves will hold the Kingdom together in its present state.
 

bhramos

Senior Member
Joined
Mar 21, 2009
Messages
21,297
Likes
23,781
Country flag
The Saudi Purge: The Middle East Is On The Verge Of New War

 

Razor

STABLE GENIUS
Senior Member
Joined
Feb 7, 2011
Messages
7,703
Likes
9,089
Country flag
Some strange things happening in KSA.
MBS trying to take reins of power bypassing the traditional chain of power in KSA.
He's is removing opponents at an alarming pace; and has arrested billionaires and the son of previous king ( not a wise move.)
These things make the Saudi military unhappy. Even though MBS seems to have the SANG on his side, I doubt it will win the battles for him.
Besides MBS is trying to radically reform the Saudi society which doesn't go well with the public in KSA at all.

At the end of the day though, the ultimate question is "have you got your bucket of popcorn??? Coz it be the showtimes"
:popcorn: :daru:
 

F-14B

#iamPUROHIT
Senior Member
Joined
Aug 13, 2016
Messages
2,075
Likes
3,992
Some strange things happening in KSA.
MBS trying to take reins of power bypassing the traditional chain of power in KSA.
the orginal blood line of Bin saud is going to terminate with his dad and he is a power hungry fellow and do not want to be relegated to some distant back water in the vast desert called Saudi arabia

He's is removing opponents at an alarming pace; and has arrested billionaires and the son of previous king ( not a wise move.)
actually quite wise in arabia I would say because you see for all the trappings of the morden world the arab world is still tribal in nature for example The discovery of oil in 1958, in the eirmate of abu dhabi and the start of oil exports in 1962, led to frustration among members of the ruling family about the lack of progress under Sheikh Shakhbut’s rule. and On 6 August 1966, Shakhbut was deposed in a bloodless palace coup to be replaced by his younger and more liberal
brother Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan bin Zayed Al Nahyan

These things make the Saudi military unhappy. Even though MBS seems to have the SANG on his side, I doubt it will win the battles for him
the armed forces will stick with the emir if they want their caps and besides the SANG is no push over
The Saudi Arabian National Guard's communications and chain of command maintained a separate network from regular Saudi Arabian military channels with a senior member of the royal family as its head. King Abdullah commanded SANG for three decades, from 1962 until 17 November 2010, when he appointed his son, Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah, as the new commander.[9] In addition, three of his sons hold high positions within the organization. SANG's Deputy Commander was Prince Badr until 2010, who was a senior member of the Al Saud. Its general headquarters, located in Riyadh, directly controlled the three regional sectors and the training facilities and the King Abdulaziz Independent Mechanized Brigade of four battalions.

The three regional (eastern, central, and western) sectors each command one or more mechanized or motorized brigades, several independent Security and Military Police and logistical battalions, but also the irregular fowj battalions
and is in the process of getting its on avation assests what I am more interested is which way the Air force thinks
MBS is trying to radically reform the Saudi society which doesn't go well with the public in KSA at all.
he is a star with the new generation but as you said it is the conservative set I am worried about
 

Mikesingh

Professional
Joined
Sep 7, 2015
Messages
7,014
Likes
27,204
Country flag
Will the Saudis now stop funding Wahabi terrorists and madrasas in Pak? That's the million dollar question. The mullahs still seem to be ruling supreme in Saudi Arabia.
 

F-14B

#iamPUROHIT
Senior Member
Joined
Aug 13, 2016
Messages
2,075
Likes
3,992
Will the Saudis now stop funding Wahabi terrorists and madrasas in Pak? That's the million dollar question. The mullahs still seem to be ruling supreme in Saudi Arabia.
I expect the prince to make significant inroads in to that murky swamp that was created by his forefathers
 

sorcerer

Senior Member
Joined
Apr 13, 2013
Messages
23,966
Likes
83,398
Country flag
Will the Saudis now stop funding Wahabi terrorists and madrasas in Pak? That's the million dollar question. The mullahs still seem to be ruling supreme in Saudi Arabia.
The prince is only purging who thinks will be a threat to his throne in the name of corruption.
Wahabism will be left to flourish as the saahudi can earn money selling Wahabism and Sharia products across the world.

The only way to check wahabism is by bleeding saudi money. Govt of India should stop the subsidy on Hajj and let saudi handle the need of the traveler. GoI should make saudi pay for madrassa teachers and pension etc through the central govt watch. If saudi can spend on making mosques..they should also spent on the other elements.
 

john70

Regular Member
Joined
Nov 23, 2011
Messages
708
Likes
1,015
Country flag
Why we should worry about Saudi's Game of Thrones
By Nic Robertson, CNN
Updated 8:08 AM EST, Fri November 10, 2017


Editor's Note: (Nic Robertson is CNN's international diplomatic editor. The opinion in this article belongs to the author.)

(CNN)Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is mercilessly neutering opponentsstanding between him and the desert kingdom's throne.

His meteoric rise to power raises the specter of an equally rapid crash -- and with it chaos in the Middle East.

Critics fear he may be on the verge of a soft coup, sliding his 81-year-old father out and himself in. But closer study suggests he could be playing a more cautious game.


Each apparently Machiavellian move -- government reshuffles, economic and social promises and now arrests -- has been taken one deliberate step at a time.

But whether he takes his father's place now or in a few years makes little difference to arguably the most important issue in the region: the conflict between the Saudis and their regional nemesis, Iran.

His father isn't just Saudi Arabia's monarch: King Salman is custodian of Islam's two holiest sites, and a palace coup in Riyadh could have ramifications beyond the kingdom's borders.

And in this most Sunni of Sunni nations, Prince bin Salman wants the Saudis to lead a grand coalition against Shia Iran.

For most his life, the crown prince will have been aware that he and some of his cousins could end up in a battle for power.

Since the death of Ibn Saud -- the first monarch of Saudi Arabia -- his sons passed the job along until their hearts gave out. The crown prince's father is almost the last in that line.

At an early age, bin Salman knew this might be his destiny: If his father didn't die of old age before becoming King, then it could be engineered so that Prince bin Salman would become the first of Ibn Saud's grandchildren to take the throne.

Without serious portfolios to manage other than his father's private office while governor of Riyadh, bin Salman has had plenty of time to plot.

Now, as crown prince, technically nothing stands between him and the top job -- other than his father's health. But bin Salman still appears to be taking no chances.

This week he arrested a slew of princes and ministers after accusing them of corruption.

President Trump appears to have no concerns: "I have great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, they know exactly what they are doing."

But not everyone shares his confidence. Many in the region fear that Prince bin Salman is overly ambitious, zealous in the extreme -- and maybe even a little bit paranoid. They worry he might cause the collapse of one of the world's most unchanging religious and cultural anchors, not to mention throw the global economy off-kilter.



But bin Salman's moves to secure his succession may not have been as wild as they appear.

His opponents also have been playing the Saudi "Game of Thrones" long before HBO's blockbuster series.

So while his actions may look sudden, they will have been carefully considered. What we don't know is how precise those calculations have been.

Last year he launched his ambitious Vision 2030 to diversify the economy away from hydrocarbons and employ the Saudi young.

The change was necessary: decades of ossifying Kings had left stuck Saudi in the past. Rock-bottom oil prices were stripping unsustainable billions from the nation's sovereign wealth fund. But an appeal to the young could shore up a huge base of popular support away from the scheming in the palaces.

Bin Salman ordered belt tightening. He cut subsidies on fuel and food basics and dreamed up an initial public offering for the world's largest company -- the oil behemoth Aramco -- to fund his gamble on Saudi rebirth.

Yet each phase of Vision 2030 has seen revision. Subsides were reintroduced and rates of employment revisited. Even the IPO was questioned.

History suggests that bin Salman appears to risk it all before pulling back when disaster looms.

Yet when it comes to securing the throne, he probably won't be dialed back so easily.

His fight against corruption is an easy sell to many of the Saudi poor. They have long grumbled in subservient apathy while royals enjoyed wealth they could never imagine.

In a country where nepotism is rife, and government jobs and their perks come for life, bin Salman could have arrested many more.

President Donald Trump appeared to have no trouble believing the scale of corruption, tweeting, "Some of those they are harshly treating have been 'milking' their country for years!"

Whether or not Trump included multibillionaire businessman Alwaleed bin Talal -- a protagonist for change in the conservative kingdom -- is unclear.

What is clear, though, is that bin Talal -- an outspoken prince and head of Kingdom Holding Co. with stakes in Citigroup, Twitter, Apple and News Corp. -- could have been a powerful adversary for bin Salman.

But before bin Salman ordered police to arrest potential foes, he had also been carefully co-opting other rivals.

Back in 2015, I met with a senior Saudi royal. He lived close enough to the corridors of power to know how influence is traded.

The war in Yemen was still fresh. Bin Salman had initiated the air campaign against the Houthi-backed Yemeni government. He owned the war: How it went and how much Saudi blood would be spilled will all rest on his shoulders.

Sitting with the senior royal, we talked about bin Salman, his growing power, his clear aspiration for more and his suitability to hold such high office.

He told me if that if bin Salman failed in Yemen, he'd be judged a failure across the board. Princes would talk quietly among themselves and -- if necessary -- request that he step down.


When I met the same royal again this year, he told me bin Salman would not be held to account for his failings. No gathering of princes would move against him.

When I asked why not, he sounded a little defeated: No one, he thinks, has the power or the money to take him on.

Months later, bin Salman's cunning was made clear to me when I learned he had given that royal a prestigious job by the Crown Prince.

In his meteoric rise, bin Salman hasn't just been clearing out an aging, sclerotic bureaucracy, but he has also been energizing the nation's youth. In a little more than two years, he has swept away a generation of elderly and experienced ministers.

He is building loyalty and -- if he gets it right -- longevity in leadership for himself. Seventy percent of the country is like him: around 30 or younger. What he has done to secure their support has been nothing short of revolutionary.

He has promised women the right to drive, allowed them to enter sports stadiums, banned religious police from arresting people and allowed men and women to meet in public without fear of persecution.

On Saudi National Day this year, music thumped out on the street. Men and women danced together, utterly unheard of even last year. And all of this around the corner from the square where Saudi beheadings take place.

Bin Salman is tapping into a desire for change and deftly wrapping it in the Saudis' already passionate nationalism.

And in arresting many conservative clerics, he seems to be downsizing religion in favor of nationalism.

But such a move is risky and could be bin Salman's Achilles' heel: A conservative backlash would be bloody. But he seems to counting on the outward-looking youth.

And while these kids are not tame, they are tied down by strict tradition, respect of family and deep loyalty to their nation.

So where is all this going? Bin Salman's growing anti-Iranian rhetoric might indicate what his reform agenda and nationalist cries have to do with one another.

This week, bin Salman called the rocketing of Riyadh a potential act of war by Iran.

If he can't fix the economy and generate more jobs for his young supporters, at least he can blame Iran for their predicament. It might buy him time, if nothing else.

And it's this strategy that makes Vision 2030 so risky -- both for bin Salman and the wider region.

His vision is bigger and bolder than the last king's, but only a fool would buy into it without some skepticism.

Bin Salman may be a modern-day Machiavelli. He certainly knows how to play the crowd. But if his gamble is to be any more than a cultural Ponzi that collapses at the first quake of dissent, he must deliver on some of the dreams he is promising.

If he doesn't, the risk of an all-out Saudi-Iran war could be much closer -- regardless of whether or not he has replaced his father.

View on CNN


© 2017 Cable News Network. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | AdChoices

 

Latest Replies

Global Defence

New threads

Articles

Top