Mohammad bin Salman
| It doesn't stop|
at the water's edge
“”We would have ended up like North Korea.
|—MBS on his country absolutely unlike North Korea.|
“”… a true enemy of free expression.
|—Tunisian Bar Association|
Mohammad bin Salman (1985–), colloquially known as MBS, is the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, and effectively the supreme leader of the country on behalf of 82 year-old King Salman.[note 1] Being merely 32 years old,[note 2] MBS is considered both a hope and curse for the endless turmoil in the Middle East.
So far, his career as a politician has been tumultuous, sometimes devastating, and polarizing at best. He was appointed Minister of Defense in 2015, and subsequently launched the invasion of Yemen which lead to the disarray and humanitarian disaster in the country. He is also considered as among the culprits of Saudi involvement on proxy wars against Iran across the Middle East including Syria where they support Jihadist rebels. This was followed by failed attempt to restore Saudi and OPEC monopoly in global oil markets, bloating the national spending to $100 billion a year to no avail. Since 2016, he began announcing several massive economic projects under the catchphrase Vision 2030 in late attempts to diversify the oil-dependent economy, foster privatization, and attract investors worldwide. After being appointed Crown Prince in July 2017, the country was involved in several diplomatic crises with Qatar and Lebanon. Later on, the country initiated much awaited domestic reforms on social and religious affairs, including the removal of the ban on female drivers. Later that year he carried out a massive purge against the so-called old guards of the royal family, and government and business establishment, which took a form of the anti-corruption campaign and lead to even bigger consolidation of power and seizure of the massive amount of assets.
His authoritarian thrust continues in 2018, with some but not exhaustively include the arrest of seven feminist activists, highly-publicized and meaningless feud with Canada, possible death penalty for a prominent Sunni cleric, criminalization of online satire with a maximum five years sentence, and ordering the murder of a Washington Post journalist critical of the government.
On a positive note, indeed it seems MBS is rather serious about opening up the country and tackling the notorious Islamic fundamentalism. One of the lasting achievements may be the crippling of the religious police known as the Mutaween (model of notorious Sharia patrol in UK), which no longer have powers to arrest young'uns for merely mingling at the mall. He also managed to take the status of women's rights in the country from the 7th century to 17th century, with allowing women to drive, attend sporting events, join military, and obtain government services such as education and healthcare without the need of male guardians (wali). He also eased the restriction on entertainment such as re-introducing cinemas to the country and on issuing tourist visas to foreigners. Bizarrely (because of Wahhabi aniconism), the entertainment industry now comes third in government funding after the petroleum sector and the military budget. He blamed all the fundies for the Iranian revolution and said that the past 30 years was "not normal" which is absolute bullshit, considering Wahhabism existed since the dawn of the country's history. He is also trying to "bring back" moderate Islam, without any clear pathway of doing so. All in all, it smells of a PR stunt capitalizing on the low bar of the country's political goals, but it remains to be seen how it goes.
MBS has been showcasing classic displays of authoritarianism. The purge, in which as many as 500 people were detained, is considered eerily similar to what happened in Russia and China at the hands of Putin and Xi, respectively. Among analysts, it is obvious that MBS and his ilk have been involved in similar corruption and nepotism as well, but only the factions that lost the power were prosecuted as such. MBS, being a classic hypocrite, purchased $500 million yachts and is considered the true buyer of Leonardo da Vinci's Salvator Mundi which sold at $450 million right after the purge. On a related note, it is not entirely clear how MBS can pull off his ambitious Vision 2030 agenda without the help of all the business moguls currently arrested and confined at the Ritz-Carlton hotel. Since his accession as Crown Prince, human rights conditions in Saudi Arabia, which already has been in the toilet, has gotten even worse due to persecution, arrests and the crackdown on activists, academics, and preachers.
- Promised for a quick victory, officially concluding the main campaign in less than a month yet being dragged on by the second phase of stabilization up until today
- Causing humanitarian catastrophe, including Cholera outbreak and famine, this time by committing war crimes of bombing civilian populations, using cluster bombs and White Phosphorus, and naval blockades against humanitarian aid
- Costing tens of billions of dollars by employing totally unfit Saudi armed forces, a significant blow to their economy
- Propped up Al-Qaeda and DAESH by creating a terrorist hotbed
- Yet to achieve its main goal of fending off Houthis.
Houthis have been launching Scud missiles to the perimeter of Mecca, which shows the extent of MBS' achievement. The only reason it gets less coverage than the Syrian Civil War has to be due to the war having no "good guys" with its main enemy Houthis being an antisemitic Iranian proxy much like Hezbollah. MBS also hastily prepped up an
coalition of the willing anti-terrorism coalition known as Islamic Military Alliance which is just pure bullshit, with some of the members don't recognize their membership. In 2018, a school bus in Yemen was hit by deadly airstrike and killed 50 including 41 children, leading to international outcry.
Saudi was also a known black curtain behind the Jihadists hijacking Free Syrian Army (FSA) and turned the civil war into quasi-sectarian conflict. Saudi escalated its arms supply after November 2015 when Russia intervened to help the moribund Assad. The Independent described MBS "the most dangerous man in the world" for orchestrating these stunts.
MBS ordered the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post journalist and Saudi in-exile in the United States. The murder reportedly occurred in the Saudi embassy in Turkey, and his body was reportedly dismembered and flown out of the country.
The Western right
Lately, MBS has been a darling of alt-right and neocon pundits. Alt-righters consider MBS as an answer from the Middle East to the hard-line approach on extremism by Donald Trump, which is absolute horseshit, considering the fact that MBS' appointment as Crown Prince was already predicted back in 2015.[note 3] The fact that Trump seems okay with MBS doesn't help. Some neocons who praised MBS includes tea party wingnut Michele Bachmann who credit MBS's ascension on "Christian prayers", and Thomas Friedman of the New York Times who called the purge Saudi Arabia's Arab Spring, which is more absolute horseshit. Arab Spring was a popular movement demanding democratic reform, while MBS' purge is a classic power grab by a dictator. Big difference.
- A young prince is reimagining Saudi Arabia. Can he make his vision come true?. Washington Post. Retrieved February 23, 2018.
- Alone in the Arab world, Tunisians can protest visit by Saudi crown prince by Paul Schemm (November 27, 2018) The Washington Post.
- "Risk-taking Saudi prince gambling with stability". lfpress. 8 February 2017. http://www.lfpress.com/2017/02/08/risk-taking-saudi-prince-gambling-with-stability.
- "Prince Mohammed bin Salman: Naive, arrogant Saudi prince is playing with fire". The Independent. 10 January 2016. Archived from the original on 10 January 2016. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/prince-mohammed-bin-salman-naive-arrogant-saudi-prince-is-playing-with-fire-a6804481.html.
- Human rights groups condemn arrests of Saudi feminists as tainting Mohammed bin Salman's reputation as a reformer. The Independent. Retrieved September 5, 2018.
- If you're surprised by Saudi Arabia's fight with Canada, you haven't been paying attention. CNN. Retrieved September 5, 2018.
- Saudi seeks death penalty for prominent cleric: reports. TRIBUNE. Retrieved September 5, 2018.
- Saudi Arabia criminalises online satire. Telegraph. Retrieved September 5, 2018.
- CIA concludes Saudi crown prince ordered Jamal Khashoggi’s assassination, Washington Post
- Saudi Arabia allows women to join military. BBC. Retrieved February 27, 2018.
- Entertainment Authority announces construction of Opera house in Riyadh. Al-Arabiya. Retrieved January 23, 2018.
- I will return Saudi Arabia to moderate Islam, says crown prince. The Guardian. Retrieved January 23, 2018.
- Decision to allow Saudi Arabia's women to attend football matches shows progress - but offers no clear end goal. Independent. Retrieved January 23, 2018.
- Kulish, Nicholas (6 November 2017). "Ritz-Carlton Has Become a Gilded Cage for Saudi Royals". New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/06/world/middleeast/ritz-carlton-riyadh-saudi-princes.html.
- "The Saudi purge will spook global investors and unsettle oil markets". The Economist. 9 November 2017. https://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21731174-some-welcome-crackdown-cronyism-others-fear-concentration-power.
- "The world should push the crown prince to reform Saudi Arabia, not wreck it". The Economist. 9 November 2017. https://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21731153-muhammad-bin-salman-seizes-all-power-saudi-arabia-world-should-push-crown-prince.
- David Kirkpatrick (4 November 2017). "Saudi Arabia Arrests 11 Princes, Including Billionaire Alwaleed bin Talal". The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/04/world/middleeast/saudi-arabia-waleed-bin-talal.html.
- "Saudi Arabia: Wave of arrests continue as authorities crack down on human rights defenders and freedom of expression". http://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/1729.
- The campaign against Saudi preachers continues. Middle East Monitor. Retrieved February 23, 2018.
- Mark Mazzetti; Ben Hubbard (16 October 2016). "Rise of Saudi Prince Shatters Decades of Royal Tradition". The New York Times: p. A1. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/16/world/rise-of-saudi-prince-shatters-decades-of-royal-tradition.html.
- Saudi-led coalition admits 'mistakes' made in deadly bus attack in Yemen. CNN. Retrieved September 5, 2018.
- The most dangerous man in the world?. The Independent. Retrieved February 23, 2018.
- CIA concludes Saudi crown prince ordered Jamal Khashoggi’s assassination, Washington Post
- Turkish president calls Jamal Khashoggi's disappearance ‘very, very upsetting’ by Erin Cunningham & Kareem Fahim (October 7 at 11:38 PM) The Washington Post.
- Did the Saudis Murder Jamal Khashoggi? by Robin Wright (October 7, 2018) The New Yorker.
- Read (at your own risk) any comment section of Saudi-related articles on Breitbart.
- Justin Huggler (2 December 2015). "Saudi Arabia 'destabilising Arab world', German intelligence warns". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 9 January 2016. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/saudiarabia/12029546/Saudi-Arabia-destabilising-Arab-world-German-intelligence-warns.html.
- Trump was the first to congratulate MBS' appointment as Crown Prince.
- Michele Bachmann (November 8, 2018). "Michele Bachmann: The prayers of Christians are making Saudi Arabia a better place". Dead State. https://deadstate.org/michele-bachmann-the-prayers-of-christians-are-making-saudi-arabia-a-better-place/.
- Thomas L. Friedman (November 23, 2017). "Saudi Arabia's Arab Spring, at Last". The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/23/opinion/saudi-prince-mbs-arab-spring.html.