Archive for the Saudi Arabia Category

Saudi Arabia’s 32 Year Old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman unprecedented grab for power may turn out to be the most unwise act for the Kingdom in 50 plus years.

Posted in Saudi Arabia with tags , , , , , , , on November 7, 2017 by sheriffali

 

“By arresting  his rivals [Families And Other Essential People] That Have Kept Saudi Arabia Stable For 50 Plus Years; Maybe The Undoing Of The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. King Salman, father of Crown Prince Salman, perhaps is now just a “figure-head” in the scheme of what seems most likely, “An Internal And Confidential Coup d’état.”

 

“Even by the torrid pace of change Saudis have become used to under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, developments over the past two days have been as frenetic as they are momentous. The removal of Prince Miteb bin Abdullah as commander of the Saudi Arabian National Guard and one of the few remaining autonomous sources of authority in the kingdom, was followed swiftly by the detention of at least 11 members of the ruling family and dozens of others, including government ministers and ex-ministers and key figures in the business community. The detentions, framed as part of a sweeping crackdown on corruption following a royal decree that mandated a Supreme Committee headed by Mohammed bin Salman to address the issue, represent the latest in a series of bold moves by a youthful crown prince who has centralized authority to a degree unprecedented in recent Saudi history, but risk weakening the checks and balances that for decades have characterized royal family rule in the kingdom.

 

The roll-call of the detained reads like a who’s who of the Saudi policymaking community. It includes two sons of the late King Abdullah (Prince Miteb and Prince Turki); Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the billionaire investor in Twitter, Apple, Citigroup, Twenty-First Century Fox, and dozens of other global brands; Saleh Kamel, another billionaire who headed one of the largest business conglomerates in the Middle East; Adel Fakieh, who as minister of economy and planning was intimately involved in the preparatory work for Saudi Arabia’s sweepingly ambitious Vision 2030 economic transformation plan; Ibrahim al-Assaf, who served 20 years as the kingdom’s minister of finance until 2016; Amr al-Dabbagh, who as governor of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority between 2004 and 2012 led drives to increase foreign investment into the country; Khalid al-Tuwayjri, the enormously influential ‘gatekeeper’ to King Abdullah’s Royal Court; Waleed al-Ibrahim, head of the MBC media empire and a brother-in-law of the late King Fahd; and Bakr bin Laden, chairman of the Saudi BinLadin Group and older half-brother of the slain Al Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden.

 

It is unlikely that the detentions are linked to any struggle for power within the royal family, as Mohammed bin Salman’s rise to prominence was sealed by his appointment as crown prince in place of his older and more experienced cousin, Mohammed bin Nayef, in June. One of Mohammed bin Salman’s first acts as the heir apparent was to transfer all the internal security functions away from the Ministry of Interior into a newly formed Presidency of State Security that answered directly to him and his father, King Salman. This removed from the security landscape one of the two entities that together with the Ministry of Defense (which Mohammed bin Salman has headed since January 2015) wielded coercive force in Saudi Arabia; the other was the National Guard, controlled since 1962 by Prince (later King) Abdullah and since 2011 by his son, Miteb, and regarded as an elite force that would quell any internal unrest in the kingdom. Mohammed bin Salman has an opportunity to unify, for the first time, the hitherto-disparate military and security structures in Saudi Arabia, and strengthen further his grip on power.

 

It’s a typically bold move for a crown prince who has made such sweeping strokes the hallmark of his swift rise. And yet, the concentration of such authority in one individual may unravel the careful mixture of consensus and balancing among competing interests within both the royal family and Saudi society at large. Since the creation of the modern Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932 and especially after the rise of Crown Prince (later King) Faisal in the 1960s, the royal family has sought a pragmatic and gradualist approach to social and political change. This helped to cushion the impact of economic modernization and guide the kingdom through periods of great internal strain, such as the 1979 takeover of the Grand Mosque and the post-2003 terrorist campaign by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. They also represented a pragmatic acknowledgment of the multiple centers of gravity within the royal family, which acted as a check on the unconstrained exercise of power by any one individual.

 

At the heart of this delicate equilibrium was the long-serving governor of Riyadh, the current King Salman,who as the keeper of internal family records and the enforcer of discipline performed duties akin to a political chief whip. Salman is also the last remaining heavy-hitter from the generation of ‘nation-builders’ who have dominated public life in Saudi Arabia since the 1950s. Salman’s role at the heart of the royal system earned him respect as well as fear among his peers in the family. Mohammed bin Salman may be seeking to appropriate these attributes for himself to ensure that he replaces his father as the undisputed manager of family matters, and avoid any void that may open once the man who ran the system for decades leaves the scene.

 

At 32, Mohammed bin Salman looks set to rule Saudi Arabia for decades, perhaps as long as the 51 years of his grandfather, Abdulaziz, who unified the kingdom between 1902 and 1932 and remained king until his death in 1953. Power since Abdulaziz’s death has passed among his many sons, which has resulted in a succession of monarchs whose age has increased steadily. Unlike his predecessors, Mohammed bin Salman will be in power when oil revenues alone can no longer maintain the patterns of wealth distribution that have underpinned political stability for decades. He therefore is very much aware that Saudi Arabia needs to diversify its economy and has outlined his Vision 2030 intended to utilize oil revenues as a catalyst for a program of far-reaching, if ill-defined, program of economic reform. The grandiose Future Investment Initiative, held in Riyadh on October 24-26, was meant to symbolize the transformation afoot in Saudi Arabia to the thousands of business and political leaders from across the world who attended to hear the plans for a new “robot city”—complete with gimmicks like offering Saudi citizenship to a robot.

 

Less than two weeks later, some of the most prominent figures in the Saudi business class who attended the Future Investment Initiative find themselves in detention in—ironically—the same luxury hotel, the Ritz-Carlton, where many of the plenary sessions took place. The sudden purge of many of the country’s most internationally recognizable businessmen, with worldwide partnerships, is likely to raise the political risk of doing business in Saudi Arabia and shake international investor confidence just as it is needed more than ever in the run-up to the much-anticipated partial IPO of Saudi Aramco, the state oil behemoth.

 

For President Donald Trump and his inner circle, who have cultivated close relations with Mohammed bin Salman since taking office in January, efforts are likely to redouble to persuade the Saudis to float the 5 percent of Aramco on the New York Stock Exchange. However, a more immediate outcome may be that Mohammed bin Salman uses his consolidated authority to escalate further the war in Yemen and—in his response to a missile launched by Houthi rebels that was intercepted over Riyadh—move dangerously close to outright military confrontation with Iran.” [Politico]

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