Tag Archives: MBN

King Quagmire of Arabia and his Prince Harming: One Year Later……..

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“King Salman bin Abdulaziz marks one year in power since becoming the ruler of Saudi Arabia after the death of his half-brother, the late King Abdullah. Salman was crowned as the new King following the death of King Abdullah who passed away on Jan. 23 last year. After his crowning, in a televised speech, King Salman said: “We will continue to hold on to the strong path on which Saudi Arabia has walked on since King Abdulaziz.”……….”

Strong path indeed: I beg to differ, strenuously. Controlled Saudi media have been making a lot of the first anniversary of King Salman’s reign. They always do, for every king.
This one certainly started quite different from the reigns of the three kings that preceded him. While all Saudi kings picked, mostly, their own successors from among their brothers and half brothers, Salman quickly cut to the chase. He appointed his favorite young son Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) as a crown prince to the crown prince. The crown prince himself is his nephew Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef (MBN) who, tellingly, is reported to have no male heirs.
MBS is already acting as almost a king, not even a king in waiting. He is now Minister of Defense, a very lucrative post in Saudi Arabia (and the Gulf). He has also been given a lot of powers over the economy as well. Yet the rival MBN is also powerful: he is minister of interior and controls the police, the religious police, and the domestic security apparatus.

Saudi opposition of its various stripes (Wahhabi and otherwise) claim that MBS is plotting to get rid of cousin MBN while his father the king is alive. That would leave his uncles Prince Muqrin Bin Abdulaziz and Prince Ahmed Bin Abdulaziz as possible blocks in his way.

Yet King Salman’s reign has not gone well, an understatement. The Saudis had earlier started a campaign to reduce crude oil prices with the goal of harming their Iranian and Russian rivals. That was when prices were well above $100 a barrel. They probably thought a price around $100 would be okay for their economy but still harm their regional rivals, and harm the U.S. shale industry. I opined here that this was a stupid policy and could backfire on them. It did backfire, big time, and it may end up harming the Saudis more than their rivals and neighbors. Oil reached down to $100 and kept going down. Now it is around $30, well below what can be considered the Saudi break-even point, reportedly closer to $80-$100. No firming of prices is in sight, give that more Iranian and Iraqi crude will be flowing in the near future.

Then there is the costly quagmire in Yemen, in which some of the most advanced and most lethal Western weapons are being used against lightly-armed opponents. And against unarmed civilian populations. The most advanced Western weapons also happen to be the most expensive weapons in the world to service and replenish. And they need Western logistics and guidance support for targeting. So the Saudi war in Yemen is also a Western war on a party that has never threatened the West, unlike its Wahhabi rivals like AQAP and IS.
It is a war not only against the Houthis and the Yemeni army; it is a war on the painfully-built infrastructure of the poorest Arab country outside Africa. They are stuck in Yemen with no victory in sight, but they have plenty of foreign mercenaries for hire to fight the war, mainly from Sudan, Somalia and from far away places like Colombia and Australia and South Africa. The costly self-inflicted war has come at a bad time for the Saudi budget and people, but the princes always manage to thrive financially.

Then there are the military and diplomatic losses in Syria and Lebanon. I forgot the potential coup de grâce: finalization of the Iran nuclear deal and the lifting of Western sanctions on the mullahs.

Not bad for one year’s work! Long live the king, I think………
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum
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Oligarchy Meritocracy: Cluster Bomber Prince MBS for Everything……….

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“A less persuasive example of royal “meritocracy” is Mohammed bin Salman who, before his appointment as deputy crown prince, was already defence minister and chair of one of two decision-making bodies set up by the king on assuming the throne. Although Sawers’ article is only talking about “meritocracy” within the House of Saud, not Saudi Arabia as a whole, it does seem a remarkable coincidence that when there are hundreds of princes – and even princesses – to choose from, the one apparently best-qualified to supervise the defence ministry (and the bombing of Yemen) happens to be the king’s favourite son. But it’s not only the defence ministry. The multi-talented prince is also head of the newly-formed Supreme Economic Council, as well as chairman of the Prince Salman Foundation, head of the executive committee for the Prince Salman Charitable Housing Association, head of the financial committee for the Holy Quran Association in Riyadh, chairman of Riyadh’s non-profit schools, honorary chairman of the Saudi Management Association, honorary chairman of the Crafted Hands Association and is a board member of the Charitable Organisations in Riyadh……………..”

Saudi media and some others refer to him as MBS (Mohammed Bin Salman). Almost affectionately, so long as his father the king remains alive and in power. No doubt this new king has learned from his predecessor Abdullah, who was too timid and slow in promoting his son Prince Met’eb (Mut’eb) and thus caused him to lose out in the war of succession. Saudi opposition sources claim Meteb is about to “resign” (meaning booted out) from his powerful job as owner of the National Guard parallel army. The National Guard has always been the domain of Abdullah and his sons, until now. Just as the Interior Ministry has always been the domain of the late Prince Nayef and his sons, and still is. Just as the extremely lucrative Defense Ministry was always the domain of the late Prince Sultan, until Salman took over after his death and now his son owns it.

Back to MBS and his sudden manna fallen from his father’s palace. He is reported to be quickly amassing all the strings of power in his young hands: 

  • Crown Prince to the Crown Prince (for now). Soon to become full Crown Prince to the king, according to Saudi opposition speculation. But I am guessing Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef (not so affectionately known as MBN) is not as easy to depose and dispose of as some other princes.
  • Minister of Defense: no job in Saudi Arabia is better for amassing new billions than control of the Ministry of Defense and its huge budget. The late Prince Sultan (who was Crown Prince briefly but mostly Defense Minister) was credibly reported by the opposition to have amassed a fortune of over $200 billion during his decades on the defense job. His sons Bandar Bin Sultan and Khaled Bin Sultan did quite well, tyvm. But those were the days, my friend…..
  • Head of Supreme Economic Council, wtf that be, etc etc.
  • Master of ARAMCO, the giant state oil company. The main source of state (and family) revenues.
  • Bomber in chief (cluster bombs and conventional bombs) of Yemen, the poorest Arab country outside of Africa. He probably can be called chief Cluster Bomber.

He is not yet chairman, honorary or otherwise, of the Saudi branch of the Students for a Democratic Society- SDS- or the Saudi branch of the Hell’s Angels or the Black Panthers. If they existed he would be. But he is probably on track to get the John McCain-Lindsey Graham Medal of Cluster-Bombing Honor.

How about head of FIFA (World Soccer Federation)? Sepp Blatter is quitting.

Mohammed Haider Ghuloum                          Follow ArabiaDeserta on Twitter