News Updates

Saudi Crown prince meets with French FM

JEDDAH: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met on Saturday with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in Jeddah.
They reviewed bilateral cooperation in various fields and opportunities to develop it further. They also discussed the latest developments in the Middle East, and joint efforts against terrorism and extremism.
The meeting was attended by Interior Minister Prince Abdul Aziz bin Saud, Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir, Minister of Information Culture Awwad Al-Awwad, Adviser to the General Secretariat of the Council of Ministers Ahmed Al-Khatib, and Deputy Head of General Intelligence Ahmed Al-Asiri.
The meeting was also attended by the French ambassador to Saudi Arabia Francois Gouyette, the Military Attaché in the Kingdom Maj. Gen. Bertrand de Lumiere and other French officials.
Earlier, Le Drian saluted Saudi Arabia’s role in halting terrorism and extremist thoughts during his talks with Al-Jubeir.
He said Saudi Arabia has demonstrated its leadership in the fight against terrorism.
“We hope to cooperate with Saudi Arabia in implementing Vision 2030,” he added.

Saudi Crown prince meets with French FM

JEDDAH: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met on Saturday with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in Jeddah.
They reviewed bilateral cooperation in various fields and opportunities to develop it further. They also discussed the latest developments in the Middle East, and joint efforts against terrorism and extremism.
The meeting was attended by Interior Minister Prince Abdul Aziz bin Saud, Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir, Minister of Information Culture Awwad Al-Awwad, Adviser to the General Secretariat of the Council of Ministers Ahmed Al-Khatib, and Deputy Head of General Intelligence Ahmed Al-Asiri.
The meeting was also attended by the French ambassador to Saudi Arabia Francois Gouyette, the Military Attaché in the Kingdom Maj. Gen. Bertrand de Lumiere and other French officials.
Earlier, Le Drian saluted Saudi Arabia’s role in halting terrorism and extremist thoughts during his talks with Al-Jubeir.
He said Saudi Arabia has demonstrated its leadership in the fight against terrorism.
“We hope to cooperate with Saudi Arabia in implementing Vision 2030,” he added.


Tillerson leaves Jeddah for Kuwait after talks on Qatar

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has left Saudi Arabia after a two-hour visit during which he held a series of talks on the Gulf crisis.

According to Qatar’s Al-Jazeera, Tillerson left Jeddah for Kuwait, where he began his Gulf tour on Monday.

According to the Saudi news agency, Tillerson, before his departure, met Saudi Crown Prince Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

During the meeting, the two sides reviewed bilateral relations and opportunities to develop them, as well as developments in the Middle East and joint efforts in the fight against terrorism and its financing.

The meeting came following another held by Tillerson including the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain, in addition to Kuwait’s minister of state for cabinet affairs, Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah.

The same news agency said the meeting discussed the crisis in Qatar in all its aspects, without giving further details.

Tillerson had also met with the Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz, with whom he discussed recent developments in the region and efforts to combat terrorism and its financing.

Tillerson arrived in Jeddah from Doha as part of a tour he started on Monday in Kuwait to discuss the Gulf crisis.

The crisis was triggered by the cutoff of trade and diplomatic relations between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain, who accuse Doha of supporting terrorism.

During Tillerson’s visit to Doha, the U.S. and Qatar signed a deal to combat terrorism financing, a step the four countries described late Tuesday as insufficient.

The four states have presented a list of demands for Qatar, including the closure of the pan-Arab Al Jazeera television, or face further sanctions.

Qatar denies the accusations, saying the blockade violates international law.


Saudi students pledge allegiance through fingerprints – Saudi Gazette

WASHINGTON — Male and female Saudi scholarship students gave their pledge of allegiance to Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, deputy premier and minister of defense, by placing their fingerprints on a graffiti, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported on Sunday.

This event took place during the celebration of Eid Al-Fitr feast organized by the Saudi Cultural Attaché office in Washington in the presence of some 300 people.

Cultural Attaché Dr. Muhammad Al-Isa congratulated all Saudi scholarship students in the US on the occasion of Eid.

He said the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, whose goals were engineered by Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, will be achieved by the efforts of the sons of the Kingdom who share the same vision.

The guests visited the King Abdullah Cultural Hall that contains national heritage monuments and samples of ancient Saudi wear.

The Eid Al-Fitr gathering for exchange of greetings also included recitation of some poems and folklore songs by several scholarship students.

The Saudi Students’ Clubs, the Saudi House in Washington and the Saudi clubs in the universities of Marymount, George Mason and Howard participated in organizing the function.


Mohammed bin Salman: the meteoric rise of Saudi Arabia’s new crown prince – The Financial Times

During a banquet on Donald Trump’s visit to Riyadh, dozens of Arab officials jockeyed to take selfies with his daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner as they mingled in a cavernous ballroom. But among the crowd of the Middle East’s wealthiest and most powerful, the glamorous couple appeared bent on getting one man into their photographs: Mohammed bin Salman, a 31-year-old Saudi royal.

The attention the US president’s daughter and senior adviser heaped on Prince Mohammed last month is illustrative of the meteoric rise of young man virtually unheard of outside Saudi royal circles three years ago.

He was once banned from entering Saudi Arabia’s defence ministry at a time when his father headed it because his brash style alienated bureaucrats. But this week he was anointed crown prince in the absolute monarchy in the most radical shake up of the kingdom’s succession process in decades.

The move cements his position as the most powerful man in the world’s top oil exporter, clearing the path for him to forge ahead with his highly ambitious plans to modernise the deeply conservative nation and wean it off its dependency on petrodollars. The only person he now has to answer to is his infirm, octogenarian father, King Salman — the man who charted his path to the top.

“Today, foreign policy, defence matters, and issues of social change are all under Prince Mohammed’s control. And he will probably have this wide-ranging executive power for many decades to come,” says Mohammed Alyahya, a non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council.

Prince Mohammed has long been considered a favoured son and a paternal bond developed when he grew up in the same house as his father, who had three wives, while other siblings lived with their mothers.

“This was an unusual upbringing in many ways, reflecting the changing times and reflecting a closer, more western fatherly relationship than others,” says Robert Lacey, author of Inside The Kingdom.

After studying law at King Saud University in Riyadh, he dabbled in real estate and the stock market. But his relationship with his father never dimmed and he became an adviser to his father when he was governor of Riyadh province in 2009.

Saudis in the vicinity used to say they could set their watches by the noise of the Salman’s cavalcade as it arrived promptly at the governor’s office at 8am each day. Prince Mohammed has developed the same work ethic and he regularly works through to 3am, observers say.

When his father ascended to the throne after the death of King Abdullah in 2015, Prince Mohammed was promptly appointed defence minister, and three months later deputy crown prince. His promotion to heir apparent this week meant he leapfrogged his elder, more experienced cousin Mohammed bin Nayef.

As dramatic as the reshuffle was, few in Saudi Arabia were surprised as Prince Mohammed had already become the leadership’s dominant figure at home and abroad.

Mr Lacey says it was the young royal’s meticulous eye for detail that persuaded the ailing King Salman, 81, that his son was the “extra limb” he needed to govern.

King Salman took power as Saudi Arabia was reeling from the collapse in oil prices. Unlike previous kings who were more hands-on, he delegated most of the day-to-day business of running the country to his son who was already developing ideas on how to revamp the economy. Prince Mohammed would tell visitors of the need to break up monopolies, reduce the dominant role of the state, allow private enterprise to flourish and create jobs growing youthful population.

And under his stewardship, Riyadh has laid out plans to do the once unthinkable — sell off a stake in Saudi Aramco, the state oil company that has been the bedrock of economy for decades.

Riyadh is also displaying a newfound boldness in flexing its financial muscle on the international stage — the Public Investment Fund, a once dormant sovereign wealth fund, has splashed out billions of dollars on a flurry of deals, including investments with Uber, the car-hailing back, and Japan’s SoftBank.

All are tied to the prince’s “Vision 2030” and a national transformation plan that targets creating 450,000 private sector jobs within three years, trimming the unwieldy public sector and developing more entertainment in a nation where cinemas are banned.

At the prince’s personal office in the basement of his Riyadh palace, policy meetings can last hours with the heir apparent commanding myriad facts and figures to bolster his arguments. Consultants warn each other to bring their A-game to the meetings. The prince interrupted one when he was in the middle of a presentation with words to the effect of: ‘This is not what I asked for. Please leave,’ says an adviser.

Even before entering government, his detractors accused the tall, heavyset royal of wielding regal influence with an impetuous temper. Some are concerned that these impulsive traits remain, questioning his temperament and judgment.

As defence minister, Prince Mohammed gambled by leading Saudi Arabia into Yemen’s war. Many critics consider it a disastrous campaign and critics accuse Riyadh of killing civilians with poorly-targeted bombing and pushing the Arab world’s poorest country to the brink of famine.

Saudi Arabia is also at the forefront of a contentious regional blockade imposed on neighbouring Qatar.

His taste for the high life at time when Saudis are grappling with swingeing austerity has been widely questioned in the kingdom, particularly after reports emerged that he had bought a ‎€500m yacht.

Still, many Saudis are devoted to their “prince of youth,” placing their hopes in his pledge to deliver a more open society. But his promises of radical economic reform may yet alienate generations accustomed to a culture of cradle-to-grave benefits.


Mohammed bin Salman: A man, a generation and an era – Al-Arabiya

The past three decades have been tormenting at some level. The Berlin Wall fell, dragging with it the world that was taking it as a shelter. The Soviet Union became history, representing a defeated model; new international balances were established.

On the regional level, Iraq fell, and Iran resumed the “export of revolutions” approach with its heavy attacks. Then came the so-called Arab Spring and left several Arab countries in turmoil. A large number of fighters infiltrated from nearby or even faraway countries.

There was a feeling that the Arab world missed the train and that it will go to the margins of history with scarred countries, or countries that are overcrowded with refugees or jobless people.

Pessimists said that the Arab world was unable to update itself and is doomed to stick to its old habits and ideas at a time when the accumulation of knowledge and research results led to a series of scientific and technological advancements. It seemed that the future means a lot to others while Arabs fought to read history.

The new generation

In this stormy world, the generation of Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz was born. It was normal for this generation to wonder about the future and the position of Saudi Arabia.

The world has changed. Waiting is no longer a guarantee of stability. Change is necessary to preserve the stability through changing minds and styles. To be present you have to be strong. To be strong, you have to rely on a dynamic, adaptive economy.

Random treatments are no longer enough. A comprehensive vision that turns into a concrete plan is a must. The change must be made through an open workshop that attracts the entire society because the latter is involved in its success. The vision must include plans, programs assessments and accountability. Before all that, the page of despair, frustration and fear must be turned and new windows should open up.

With Mohammed bin Salman we have started talking about the future. Vision 2030 is on the citizens’ diary. What is remarkable is that dreams now have numbers and there is full trust in the ability of the young Saudi generation to achieve the desired results

Ghassan Charbel

Renewing hope is not easy. It needs a man who knows his community with its constants, concerns and demands. A man who knows how to listen to the pulse of the people and their deep feelings. A man who is also good at reaching the conscience of his compatriots and their preoccupation with the future of their country. A man who can be honest and convincing and who is able to polarize energies. A man who is entrusted with change and who can take a decision and make it happen.

This process also needs a man who understands the world. A man who holds strong cards; a man who has strong international connections and knows the importance of economic weight, the decisive role of technology in the future industry and the importance of partnerships and investments; a man who promotes confidence at home and abroad, whether for the average citizen or the decision makers in big countries and giant companies.

All these qualifications were found in a man that has legitimacy. The legitimacy of the founder that has been refined through the years of working with King Salman bin Abdulaziz. The legitimacy of adhering to assets; the legitimacy of his readiness to share citizens’ concerns and work for their interests; the legitimacy of being popular because the new generation has found someone who shares their dreams and hopes.

Vision 2030

With Mohammed bin Salman we have started talking about the future. Vision 2030 is on the citizens’ diary. What is remarkable is that dreams now have numbers and there is full trust in the ability of the young Saudi generation to achieve the desired results, to work for the inclusion in modern institutions and to find solutions to the concerns of development, knowledge, progress and the problem of extremism.

The theories of closure and fear fell as well as projects promoting the collision with the world. The features of a confident state have been formed, searching for their place and interests and addressing the world in a state-of-the-art language targeting progress. The country is looking for effective partnerships and mutual interests. The accumulation of knowledge and expertise is a wealth that does not keep the country enslaved to oil prices.

Journalists who have toured world capitals in the last 2 years have seen a change in the relations of the countries with Saudi Arabia. The talk about Vision 2030 is now on all meetings’ agendas. This is true in Washington, Beijing, Tokyo, Moscow and elsewhere. The negotiations with these countries have become very serious and precise. The Saudi negotiator knows exactly what he wants and what he can offer.

Saudi Arabia had to launch this major challenge without forgetting that it is living in an unstable region. It is targeted for being a safety valve for the Gulf, Arab and Islamic worlds. Saudi Arabia, which recognizes the importance of modernizing its economy, had to develop its strengths at the diplomatic, military and security levels.

Prince Mohammed bin Salman played a major role in facing these challenges, gathering capacities, planning alliances and promoting the policy of building bridges, as reflected in the 2 consecutive summits that took place in Riyadh.

With Saudis pledging allegiance to Prince Mohammed bin Salman as crown prince and the royal decrees that brought young generations to positions of responsibility, a new phase of opening doors and strengthening bridges begins. People’s trust enhances decision-making, protects the stability and opens the road to prosperity.


WHO thanks crown prince for anti-cholera funding

LONDON: The World Health Organization (WHO) has thanked Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, deputy prime minister and minister of defense, for his donation of $66.7 million to stop the spread of cholera in Yemen.
In response to an urgent call for funding, the King Salman Center for Relief and Humanitarian Aid (KSRelief) in Saudi Arabia announced the donation to UNICEF, WHO and their partners.
The money will be used to respond to a cholera outbreak in Yemen.
The response will center on a combination of water, sanitation and health care activities, which officials say will help save the lives of thousands of Yemenis at risk of being affected by the ongoing crisis.
“On behalf of the WHO Regional Office I extend deep thanks and appreciation to Prince Mohammed bin Salman, crown prince of Saudi Arabia, deputy prime minister and minister of defense, for his noble initiative in the humanitarian field, to support efforts which aim to alleviate suffering, (and) provide relief through working to contain cholera and prevent its complications in Yemen,” said Mahmoud Fikri, WHO regional director for the Eastern Mediterranean.
The funding will be put to immediate use, according to KSRelief, which will work with UNICEF, WHO and its partners to activate the new initiative.
Recently, the UN health agency said there are now more than 200,000 suspected cases of cholera, many of them children.
UNICEF Director Anthony Lake and WHO Chief Margaret Chan said in a statement, “we are now facing the worst cholera outbreak in the world,” with an average of 5,000 new cases every day.
The agencies say that more than 1,300 people have died — one quarter of them children — and the death toll is expected to rise.
A cholera outbreak will probably have infected more than 300,000 people by September, the UN said.
Cholera is a highly contagious bacterial infection spread through contaminated food or water.
Although the disease is easily treatable, doing so in conflict-torn Yemen has proved particularly difficult.
UN reports indicate that almost 19 million people — more than two-thirds of Yemen’s total population — are in need of humanitarian assistance, and that 14.5 million people lack access to clean water and sanitation.



Saudi Arabia renews its pledge for stability – The National

In changing the order of succession for the first time since 1932 and reorganising the kingdom’s internal power structure, a series of decrees announced by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman on June 21 were nothing short of unprecedented. They aim to guarantee the kingdom’s stability for decades to come and reassure its neighbours and foreign investors amid regional political volatility and other changes.

Mohammed bin Salman replaces 57-year-old Mohammed bin Nayef as crown prince and deputy prime minister. For the first time since Saudi’s founder passed power to his son, the order of succession will not be transferred laterally between brothers, but rather vertically, with King Salman preparing to hand power to his son.

The decrees mark an unprecedented generational power shift. But beyond the impact of the announcement, hindsight tells us it was not too much of a surprise. The decrees are the culmination of a political rupture that has been two years in the making. The decrees also represent a permanent shift from the cautious and incremental political changes that typified the kingdom’s approach between 1962 and 2015 to the ambitious and rapid reforms more in tune with 21st-century statecraft.

The appointment of Mohammed bin Salman also solidified rumours that had been flying around since his father came to power in January 2015. Indeed, since the elevation of King Salman to the throne – and some would argue prior to this – the young crown prince has increasingly consolidated his power to carve out a pivotal role in Saudi affairs, gaining visibility and popularity through a series of interviews with international media outlets and high-profile visits to Russia, China and the US. In addition, over the past two years, the crown prince has been the main decision-maker over the military intervention in Yemen, Saudi Vision 2030 and major defence and energy contracts. As such, his latest appointment is the final chapter in a shift initiated by Saudi Arabia’s leadership.

In that sense, the decrees represent a clear vote in favour of continuity and reaffirm ambitions to modernise the kingdom. They also give carte blanche to the new crown prince to maintain, and even speed up, the tempo of some of the policies previewed in the first year of King Salman’s rule – from reducing the country’s reliance on oil revenue to continuing the implementation of Vision 2030.

And, in his capacity as minister of defence, Mohammed bin Salman will continue pushing a more assertive foreign policy in the region, from the kingdom’s ongoing role in the Yemen war to confrontations with Iran, Qatar and beyond as it seeks further political rapprochement with the Trump administration.

Last but not least, the decrees have further renewed Saudi Arabia’s commitment to balancing the royal family’s younger generation with its elders, anchoring a new style of politics.

Since a series of decrees announced in April 2017, an assortment of princes from the third- and fourth-generation of the Al Saud family have been appointed ministers, deputy governors, advisers, and ambassadors, providing the new crown prince with a diverse base of support among a new cohort of royals. Powerful new faces are emerging in the kingdom and are likely to become influential in the coming years, if not decades.

Furthermore, this new generation is now better placed to represent the predominantly young population – with more than 60 per cent of citizens under the age of 30 – and cater to its growing needs and dreams, starting with better access to education, jobs, housing, and leisure activities.

More than just a rupture with the past, this latest move puts an end to a series of uncertainties and brings more visibility to what lies ahead for the kingdom politically. Furthermore, the change in leadership marks a permanent departure from the norm of the country’s internal politics, signalling the country’s deep resilience and willingness to adapt to the challenges of our time.


Mohammed bin Salman is the Future of Saudi Arabia – Stratfor WorldView

Partner Perspectives are a collection of high-quality analyses and commentary produced by organizations around the world. Though Stratfor does not necessarily endorse the views expressed here — and may even disagree with them — we respect the rigorous and innovative thought that their unique points of view inspire.

By Kristen Smith Diwan for The Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington

In analyzing ruling family politics in the Gulf, one must rely upon what one can see. Internal deliberations are carefully hidden, and can only be discerned through their tangible results. On June 21, a big outcome was revealed in Saudi Arabia. The Al Saud ruling family has successfully navigated the inherently fraught task of winnowing the lines of power from the sons of the founder to the sons of sons, and selected the face of third generation leadership. King Salman bin Abdulaziz has succeeded in consolidating power under his son: The 31-year-old Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) is now crown prince and the future of Saudi Arabia.

MbS’s ascent has been rapid and not without controversy. In charting his course as heir to the throne, traditional customs and practices long respected within the ruling family have been tossed aside. Most notably, the norm of deference to elders has been disregarded, both in the broader Al Saud and within King Salman’s immediate family. The practice of consensus building, especially through the sharing of key ministerial posts, has also been shaken, as the young prince and his father have sidelined rivals and centralized power through the strategic use of technocrats and superministerial bodies.

Whether this outcome is perceived as positive for the prospects and stability of Saudi Arabia and the broader region depends upon individual opinions of the new leader, and appetites for precipitous change. Either way, it is likely the consolidation of his future rule will bring more of the same policies previewed in these first years of King Salman’s rule: an eagerness to project Saudi power abroad, as witnessed in the Yemen war and, most recently, Qatar embargo, and a willingness to challenge power centers at home, over the economy and religious authority. The limits of his reach will be set by the evolving contours of regional and domestic politics and economic realities, not by his own family.

Settling the Competition over Next Generation Leadership

The most potent rival to MbS for next generation leadership was the Saudi minister of interior, Mohammed bin Nayef. When King Salman came to power in 2015, MbN proved too prominent a public figure and royal authority to overstep when setting the line of succession. His appointment as crown prince was buttressed by the respect with which he is held in international intelligence circles, while his position heading Saudi Arabia’s powerful Ministry of Interior gave him access to formidable intelligence networks at home. In the past year, increasing discomfort with MbS’s liberalizing directions provided MbN a potent social constituency in the country’s informal Islamist movements and much of the religious establishment.

Yet coinciding with MbN’s appointment as crown prince, King Salman and his son set about undermining MbN’s power base. The crown prince arrived to his position as it was stripped of its court, depriving MbN of one source of influence and patronage. The establishment of a National Security Center in April and an international center to combat terrorism in May, both affiliated to the royal court, usurped MbN’s traditional base of influence and expertise. Significant levers of intimidation were removed when the Ministry of Interior-supervised religious police had their arresting powers stripped in April 2016, and again this week with the removal of prosecutorial oversight from the Bureau of Investigations, a formidable power held by the Ministry of Interior, not the Ministry of Justice, in Saudi Arabia. Potential allies in Islamist power centers such as the World Assembly of Muslim Youth also saw their funding cut, and room for maneuver narrowed.

In the end, the removal of MbN came as a formality, his powers already shifted to other sites and his networks of influence constrained. His apparent acquiescence to his ouster leaves little site of royal resistance, and provides clarity to the future direction of the country.

The appointment of MbS as crown prince comes among a raft of other royal decrees defining new rules for future succession and revealing new royal appointments. Both continue the rather extraordinary trend of empowering third generation princes, which was featured in the last package of royal decrees in May. An assortment of younger princes now hold deputy positions throughout ministries and regional governments, providing MbS with a diverse base of support among young royals. A quick perusal of the appointments suggests relative power centers among the bin Nayef and bin Sultan lines alongside the bin Salman line – all descendants of the Sudairi brothers that dominated second generation Al Saud rule.

Most notably, the Ministry of Interior has been turned over to Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Nayef, the 33-year-old nephew of MbN (who does not have male heirs) and son of the governor of the Eastern Province, Prince Saud bin Nayef. This maintains these two posts, key to internal security, in the hands of the bin Nayef line. But even here the control of MbS is apparent. Prince Abdulaziz has been working for the past six months under MbS in the royal court and Ministry of Defense. And it is unlikely that the powers drained from the Ministry of Interior and transferred to new institutions under the authority of the royal court will be returned. New appointments within the Ministry of Interior guarantee that effective technocrats and representatives of the bin Salman line are present.

All told this marks an unprecedented centralization of power in Saudi Arabia. In addition to his overarching authority as crown prince and dominant authority within the royal court, MbS holds specific authority over the economy through the Council of Economic and Development Affairs and Supreme Council of Aramco, as well as internal and external defense, through the Ministry of Defense and the new organs of security and counterterrorism.

One new change plays against this historic power grab. The amendment of the basic law prevents the monopolization of power of MbS and his descendants, by requiring the king and the crown prince to come from different branches of the ruling family – present formation excepted. This means a future crown prince may not come from the bin Salman line, a nod to fears of exclusion under a rapidly consolidating power center. This appears to be a concession to fears of royal exclusion, and may have played a part in winning royal acquiescence to MbN’s replacement by MbS. It was reported that 31 of 34 royals on the Allegiance Council, which was created by the late King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz to determine future successions, offered their support. Were this change in Saudi Arabia’s constitution to hold, it might presage a system of future power sharing between the bin Salman line and perhaps the bin Nayef line resembling the alteration of lines long practiced in Kuwait. Still, there is little to prevent an emboldened and secure future King MbS from again altering the basic law. At 31, he is set to be in power for a long time.

The Future of Saudi Arabia

With power consolidated under MbS, Saudi Arabia is likely to see a continuation of the more assertive policies witnessed under his influence. These policies are shaped by both ruling inclination and regional and domestic circumstances. MbS has consistently demonstrated a willingness to seize the regional opening created by collapsing governments and the relative retrenchment of U.S. power in the region, informed by the perceived need to counter Iranian gains. These power projections have been accomplished by a remarkable partnership with the United Arab Emirates – probably the most significant development in Gulf politics in the past five years. This pairing has expanded the reach of Gulf influence in Egypt and Yemen, and in the recent jarring actions to neutralize Qatar as a regional competitor.

Emirati influence is also evident domestically, as the newly appointed crown prince draws upon Emirati expertise and example in diversification of the economy, and the construction of a new nationalism. The Emirati model makes for an imperfect fit in the kingdom, which has fewer resources to create new industries and a greater reliance on religion as a power base and cornerstone of legitimacy. Still the step toward a more nationalist posture, informed by Sunni leadership, is clear in the new national and transnational organizations crafted under MbS. Over time these may serve as a new vessel for Al Saud authority, diminishing their reliance on informal Islamist networks and to some degree even the religious establishment for legitimacy. Equally momentous will be the challenges of transitioning the economy outlined under Saudi Vision 2030, including the unprecedented step of privatizing part of Aramco – a move viewed anxiously by the conservative technocrats overseeing the Saudi economy.

In navigating these transitions internationally and domestically, MbS hopes to build on the traditional U.S.-Saudi partnership. He has built strong personal ties with both U.S. President Donald J. Trump and Trump’s son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner. MbS will be able to manage the relationship from Washington through the recent appointment of his brother, Prince Khalid bin Salman, as ambassador. Yet he will not hold the carte blanche trust in the special relationship, nor perhaps will he enjoy the comfort level U.S. policymakers had with his older predecessors.

The Saudi Public Watches

The Saudi public awoke to the momentous shift in power orchestrated behind closed doors while they slept. They then watched a well-orchestrated rollout of the new order, highlighted by the young prince modestly accepting the allegiance of the retiring crown prince, and videos of the late King Abdullah predicting the young heir’s future rule.

Social media now affords a new vehicle to voice allegiance to the new order but offered few signs of dissent over the transition. Notably, even prominent figures from the Islamist camp least happy with the policy direction of MbS, dutifully wished the king and MbS well, and voiced hopes that his rule will be wise and serve the people and country. They, along with prominent media sheikhs who likewise tweeted their support and good wishes, were assailed by negative comments from abroad, voicing disappointment in their lack of independence. Other followers expressed confidence in the Islamic leadership of MbS.

Still considerations of public opinion cannot be neglected, especially by a new generation monarch with a keen sense of modern media. The ascension of MbS came accompanied by the restoration of back wages cut in recent austerity measures along with an extension of Eid holidays for military and civil servants. A key constituency of Vision 2030, the private sector, was left out of the festivities.

The declaration of MbS as crown prince marks less a change in direction than the removal of a check on his power, and the potential for a significant turnaround in policies had MbN risen to power. For the moment, MbS is in the driver’s seat without any notable internal opposition to deter him. He will join the crop of ambitious new generation royals in the Gulf region who have overseen the impressive expansion of Gulf wealth and influence, along with the discord sown by competing Gulf agendas across the Middle East.

Kristin Smith Diwan is a senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.


Crown prince visits injured security men who thwarted plan to target Grand Mosque

MAKKAH: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, on the occasion of Eid Al-Fitr, visited security personnel who were injured while foiling a terrorist plan to target the Grand Mosque.

He visited them at the security forces hospital in Makkah, and expressed pride in their sacrifices and courage in maintaining security at the Two Holy Mosques.

The wounded and their colleagues said they are honored to maintain Saudi security and protect the Two Holy Mosques.

The crown prince was accompanied by Interior Minister Prince Abdul Aziz bin Saud bin Naif, Commander of Special Emergency Forces Lt. Gen. Khalid bin Qarar Al-Harbi, and a number of officials.

On another occasion, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman received Assistant Minister of Defense Mohammed Al-Ayesh; Chief of General Staff Gen. Abdulrahman Al-Bunyan; Adviser at the Royal Court and General Supervisor of the Defense Minister’s Office Fahd Al-Issa; Chairman of Special Affairs of Defense Minister’s Office Khalid Al-Rayes; commanders of branches of armed forces and senior officials of the Ministry of Defense who came to greet and congratulate him on the occasion of the Eid Al-Fitr. The crown prince conveyed to them the greetings and congratulations of King Salman.

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Quote by the Prince

"We seek to be proud of our country, and allow the latter to contribute to the development of the world, whether on the economic, environmental, civilisational, or intellectual levels."