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Most Interesting Story In Newspapers Comes From Saudi Arabia Concerning Mohammed bin Salman

June 22, 2017

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Stories about the usual infighting at the Wisconsin Statehouse among Republicans over transportation funding, or the closed process over health care legislation in Washington all have such nauseating feelings to them.  Because of that I was really taken in by the full-page reads in the major papers concerning Saudi Arabia.  The fact is I love Saudi history and find the political stories from the Kingdom most enjoyable to sort through. Today was truly enjoyable with the papers.

On Wednesday, King Salman, 81, named his ambitious and confrontational 31-year-old son Mohammed bin Salman as his crown prince and successor, in a bid to supercharge an attempt by the country—and the monarchy—to secure its future. The move caps an overhaul rare in Saudi history that has deposed two crown princes and marks the ascent of the youngest ruling generation the kingdom has seen.

The new heir apparent is likely to become the youngest ruler of Saudi Arabia since King Abdulaziz.

Speaking of Abdulaziz, I wish to add that anyone reading along here might care to pick up The House of Saud: The Rise and Rule of the Most Powerful Dynasty in the Arab World, as it is a great book on the beginnings of the dynasty that still rules the desert kingdom. 

The succession overhaul that was announced by royal decree—hours after the dawn meal that precedes the daily fast in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan—was expected by some, but the timing may have been accelerated by the Qatar issue, according to one of the people familiar with the matter.

The change of power has profound implications for Saudi Arabia’s political and economic future, for global oil markets and for allies inside and outside the Middle East. It casts into retirement the erstwhile crown prince, Mohammed bin Nayef, King Salman’s nephew and a longtime antiterror official who had close ties with U.S. diplomats. It empowers a largely untested prince who may become even more powerful than his father, as dissenting factions have been edged out and power is now consolidated in King Salman’s line.

After Salman became king in 2015 upon the death of his older brother Abdullah, another brother, Muqrin bin Abdulaziz, was appointed crown prince. Mohammed bin Salman was appointed defense minister and chairman of the country’s Council for Economic and Development Affairs, putting him at the head of military and economic matters. The king’s young son monopolized the limelight, becoming the face of the kingdom’s ambitious economic overhauls and its war to oust Iranian proxies from Yemen.

Crown prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz resigned in April 2015, making room for Mohammed bin Nayef, a nephew of King Salman’s, to become crown prince, and Mohammed bin Salman to become deputy crown prince. That structure was a major shift, as for the first time it named a successor to the throne who would be of the younger generation. It was also the first time a sitting crown prince had been replaced.

The Wall Street Journal editorialized about the matter with eagerness in their tone.

His appointment as Crown Prince will strengthen his hand by putting to rest competing claims to the throne from more conservative corners of the House of Saud with its 7,000 princes. A moderate and prosperous Saudi Arabia would bolster stability across the Arab world and is squarely in the U.S. national interest. Washington should support and encourage the young prince as he pursues change.

The Trump White House is delighted with the news.

 Trump views Prince Mohammed as a crucial ally in his effort to cement a Sunni Muslim alliance in the Persian Gulf. The prince, who also serves as the Saudi defense minister, favors a confrontational line toward Iran, which dovetails with the Trump administration’s hostile stance toward Tehran. And he is spearheading Saudi Arabia’s embargo of neighboring Qatar, which Mr. Trump has praised because he, like the Saudis, accuses the Qataris of financing extremist groups.

The young prince is also a favorite of the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Mr. Kushner began cultivating Prince Mohammed soon after Mr. Trump’s election. When the prince visited Washington in March, he dined with Mr. Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, at their home. When the couple joined Mr. Trump on his visit to Saudi Arabia last month, the prince hosted Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump for a dinner at his house.

“There’s a certain compatibility there,” said Jon B. Alterman, the director of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “The president and his entourage think fellow billionaires who have an itch to get things done make the world go ‘round.”

My take on the matter is one where my desire for pragmatism once again comes to the front of the line.  While the prince is young and that bodes well for a much-needed generational change the fact is he is not rooted in institutional memory or possesses the degree of governing experience that the country and region calls for.  The fact is he may be able to rule for decades and such a position calls for someone with the combination of leadership skills and governing know-how.

The story of this Kingdom and the men who populate its leadership will draw attention, awe, and cause many to continually analyze their political affairs.

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