Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s powerful prince who is unaffected by Western uproar


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RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s powerful crown Prince Mohammed bin SalmanThe international outrage about the killing of a journalist has not stopped the UN from defending the government Jamal KhashoggiFour years ago, Western leaders tried to isolate him once more and now seek his support.
US President Joe BidenKhashoggi’s killer, who has also accused the prince of ordering his murder, was visiting Saudi Arabia on Friday to seek relief from the rising global petroleum prices.
He is following in the footsteps European leaders, who condemned Khashoggi’s 2018 murder by a Saudi hit team in Istanbul, but admit that they can’t ignore the global energy giant as its de facto ruler.
The prince, who is only 36 years old, and still waiting to inherit the power from King Salman his father, has already made his mark on the Middle East and the kingdom.
He has crushed opposition and made it difficult for his rivals to control the country. Meanwhile, he pursued a more aggressive foreign policy in this region. His actions have been admired by many, shocked human rights advocates, and upset Riyadh’s old allies.
The killing of Khashoggi, an insider-turned-critic, was a particularly heavy blow to the prestige of the prince, known by his initials MbS. Although he denied ordering the operation, he acknowledged ultimate responsibility as a leader.
MbS was unable to promote himself as a reformer and pursued new freedoms within the conservative kingdom, home of Islam’s holiest places.
His critics from abroad seem to have given up when confronted with the fact that he could lead the Middle East’s largest economic sector for many decades to come.
“The West tried to limit MbS interaction post-Khashoggi, but it was gradually eroded,” Ayhamkamel of consulting Eurasia Group said.
“He is there for the Saudi-US relationship to be revived which in the current geopolitical context – due to the Ukraine war and China competition – requires to be fixed.
Under the watchful eyes of the Crown Prince, wide-ranging reforms have been carried out, including the listing state oil giant Saudi Aramco on the market.
However, he also promised a tougher stance towards the Iranian influence in the region and led the kingdom to a costly war in Yemen.
Trump was supportive of him, but Biden made a stronger stand on Saudi Arabia and the prince made overtures that diplomats saw as a sign that he was a valuable regional partner.
These moves included a deal with Qatar to end a bitter row that saw Riyadh, its allies, boycott Doha. They also launched direct talks with Iran to manage tensions and a truce for Yemen.
The US’s restrictions against arms sales to the Kingdom and the indirect US-Iran negotiations to revive the 2015 nuclear accord, without Gulf participation, continue to strain relations. Biden also refused to directly deal with MbS, the de facto ruler.
“Simply, I do not care,” the crown prince said in a March 2022 interview with The Atlantic, when asked whether Biden misunderstood things about him.
Resentment in the family
MbS emerged from near inobscurity after his father took the throne. After the 2017 palace coup that saw the crown prince of Saudi Arabia be ousted by his cousin, MbS marginalized senior royal family members and consolidated power over Saudi intelligence agencies. This caused resentment within family.
Later that year, he arrested several Saudi princes and other prominent Saudis. They were held for months at Riyadh’s Ritz Carlton hotel in an anticorruption campaign that shocked the world.
MbS announced dramatic changes to the economy. These included new industries that will create jobs for Saudis, and fiscal reforms.
Some of the most notable social reforms were allowing cinemas to open and public entertainment, and ending the ban on women driving.
According to sources close to the business elite, while he is liked by young Saudis and has many royal supporters, some ruling family members are dissatisfied with Mohammed’s control over power. They questioned his leadership after unprecedented attacks against Saudi oil plants in 2019.
His cousin Mohammed bin Nayef, a former crown prince, was detained by authorities in March 2020. Prince Ahmed is the brother of the king. This move, according to royal connections, was intended to ensure smooth succession.
MbS has many admirers in the region. One Gulf source said that MbS’s “bulldozer” approach was necessary to change Saudi Arabia.
Aramco shares were the foundation of the economic revolution. After many false starts, Aramco’s listing was completed in 2019. However, there wasn’t enough investor interest for a foreign offering.
Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy has been reformed by the prince.
MbS prompted the assertiveness of the kingdom in response to concerns by hawkish Saudi officials that there had been a decade of growing Iranian influence in the region. Washington, under former President Barack Obama, was also concerned about what they saw as an ill-fated expansion of Iranian activity within Arab nations.
While Riyadh had severed diplomatic ties with Tehran in 2016, they began direct talks in 2021 in an effort to decrease tensions in a time that the Gulf states were expressing doubts about the US’ commitment to the region.


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