[Editor’s note: Many experts have been predicting the collapse and break up of the Saudi kingdom for quite some time and the current power struggles that have seen the Crown Prince replaced are seen as a symptom of the illness that will lead to the fatal collapse.
The Saudi regime is cruel and brutal, it keeps the masses of the Saudi people dirt poor and living in conditions little changed for medieval times, a situation made worse in the last couple of years by the austerity measures implemented as a result of the faltering Saudi economy. These measures have also seen hundreds of thousands of migrant workers go unpaid, adding a second large group of dissidents to the native Arabs.
The war in Yemen, that has seen the Saudi Army and it’s Gulf allies humiliated by the Houthi tribesmen has further destabilised the Saudi kingdom, to the point where many observers are surprised that the western part of Saudi which contains the important province of Hejaz and the two holy cities of Mecca and Medina has not risen up against the House of Saud.
It now appears that the instability and unrest in the Saudi Kingdom has spread to the ruling class, as witnessed by the shuffling around of princes by King Salman, which would seem to be an attempt to stabilise his own position and quell unrest within his own extended family. Ian]
Demise of the Saudi Kingdom is approaching
Proof of the retreat? Recently, King Salman of Saudi Arabia took another two steps backward by elevating his son, Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS), to crown prince, next in line for the throne.
But what does it all mean? The king’s move suggests that the hierarchical structure in the house of Al-Saud, which has been in place for decades, is about to change once and for all.
The demotion of Mohamed Bin Nayef (former crown prince and King Salman’s nephew) indicates not only the growing power of the young prince MBS (minister of defense, chief of the royal court, chairman of Saudi Aramco supreme council, etc.), but also the oft-unnoticed royal infighting over control of the kingdom. The assassination of King Faisal on March 25, 1975 is a rare example of how such infighting spills over into public view.
The elevation of MBS raises serious concerns politically, economically, socially, and religiously. Politically, the main question is what kind of foreign policy the impulsive, inexperienced MBS will conduct vis-à-vis Qatar, Syria, and Iran, to name but a few hotspots. One does not have to look far to realize MBS’s naiveté in global affairs. Consider, for example, his decision to undertake a military adventure in Yemen. His miscalculation suggests a lack of military and diplomatic experience. Two years after the desert kingdom launched its operations in Yemen, it has yet to declare a decisive victory. The underwhelming outcome in Yemen raises serious concerns about how MBS will deal with Iran.
Further, Saudi Arabia, along with its Persian Gulf allies, Bahrain, UAE, and Kuwait, has yet to provide evidence to justify the blockade against their small neighboring country Qatar.
From an intelligence perspective, it will be interesting to see whether MBS will have the kind of cooperative relationship with former crown prince Mohamed Bin Nayef that US intelligence agencies have had with him when fighting terrorism. Given MBS’s impulsiveness and inexperience, the question is that whether he can manage regional security concerns and global crises. The quagmire in Yemen suggests that he cannot.
Economically, the crown prince is moving forward with his economic and social vision 2030. This vision consists of weaning the kingdom of its dependence on oil. MBS wants to transform the kingdom’s economy from energy dependent to more diversified and increasingly reliant on sources of revenue other than crude oil. Now that oil prices are low and will continue to be for some time to come, the kingdom is being forced to reconsider other revenue sources. Whether MBS will succeed in reducing the kingdom’s lavish subsidies remains to be seen. My prediction is that the population, mainly the youth, might not be at ease with such drastic change. There is currently a social program in the kingdom dubbed the Citizen’s Account, the sole purpose of which is to soften the impact of austerity measures on low- and middle-income Saudis.
Sources in the Saudi royal guards revealed that new crown prince Mohammed bin Salman has ordered them to keep the ousted crown prince, Mohammed bin Nayef, under house arrest.
“The Saudi royal guards have been ordered to permanently deploy at the palace where Mohammed bin Nayef, the former Saudi crown prince, resides in Riyadh,” informed royal guards sources told al-Khalij al-Jadid news website.
They added that the order means bin Nayef is house arrest.
Also, al-Ahd al-Jadid news website reported on its twitter page that Mohammed bin Salman has ordered to put 5 Saudi princes and a number of interior ministry officers under house arrest for their continued contacts with bin Nayef after he was dethroned by the Saudi king Salman.
Earlier this month, Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz replaced Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz with his own son, Mohammed bin Salman, the deputy crown prince and defense minister.
According to a royal decree, Mohammed bin Salman, 31, was also named deputy prime minister, and shall maintain his post as defense minister, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
The SPA also confirmed that 31 out of 34 members of Saudi Arabia’s succession committee chose Mohammed bin Salman as the crown prince.
The Saudi king had earlier stripped Nayef of his powers overseeing criminal investigations and designated a new public prosecution office to function directly under the king’s authority.
In a similar move back in 2015, the Saudi king had appointed his nephew, then deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Nayef as the heir to the throne after removing his own half-brother Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz Al Saud from the position.
Under the new decree, King Salman further relieved Mohammed bin Nayef of his duties as the interior minister. He appointed Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Nayef as the new interior minister and Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Salem as deputy interior minister.
Mohammed Bin Salman is already in charge of a vast portfolio as chief of the House of Saud royal court and chairman of the Council for Economic and Development Affairs, which is tasked with overhauling the country’s economy.
The young prince was little known both at home and abroad before Salman became king in January 2015.
However, King Salman has significantly increased the powers of Mohammed, with observers describing the prince as the real power behind his father’s throne.
The power struggle inside the House of Saud came to light earlier this year when the Saudi king began to overhaul the government and offered positions of influence to a number of family members.
In two royal decrees in April, the Saudi king named two of his other sons, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman and Prince Khaled bin Salman, as state minister for energy affairs and ambassador to the United States, respectively.
Late April, media source disclosed that Mohammad bin Salman has literally bribed the new US administration by paying $56m to Donald Trump.
According to reports, bin Salman is paying off the US to buy its support for finding a grip over the crown.
“Since Uncle Sam’s satisfaction is the first step for the Saudi princes to get on the crown, paying off Washington seems to be a taken-for-granted fact,” Rami Khalil, a reporter of Naba’ news website affiliated to the Saudi dissidents wrote.
He added that since the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) is like a sword over the head of the al-Saud, they have no way out but to bribe the US, noting that the Yemen quagmire is also another reason for Riyadh to seek Washington’s support.
Also, a prominent Yemeni analyst said early June that the US has been paid several trillion dollars by Saudi Arabia to protect its crown, adding that Riyadh has recently bribed Washington’s support for the Yemen war with $200bln.
“Washington has asked for more money to defend the Saudi regime and Riyadh has recently paid $200bln to the US for the costs of its support for the war in Yemen,” Saleh al-Qarshi told FNA.
“This is apart from the huge amounts of money that Saudi Arabia pays to the US treasury for protecting its crown,” he added.
According to al-Qarshi, former Saudi Intelligence Chief Turki al-Feisal revealed last year that his country has bought the low-profit US treasury bonds to help the US economy.
As the defense minister, Mohammed bin Salman has faced strong international criticism for the bloody military campaign he launched against neighboring Yemen in 2015 amid his rivalry with bin Nayef, the then powerful interior minister.
Saudi Arabia has been striking Yemen since March 2015 to restore power to fugitive president Mansour Hadi, a close ally of Riyadh. The Saudi-led aggression has so far killed at least 14,000 Yemenis, including hundreds of women and children.
The World Health Organization (WHO) in Yemen also announced that more than a thousand Yemenis have died of cholera since April 2017 as Saudi Arabia’s deadly campaign prevented the patients from travelling abroad for treatment and blocked the entry of medicine into the war-torn country, continues hitting residential areas across Yemen.
Despite Riyadh’s claims that it is bombing the positions of the Ansarullah fighters, Saudi bombers are flattening residential areas and civilian infrastructures.
According to several reports, the Saudi-led air campaign against Yemen has drove the impoverished country towards humanitarian disaster.
Nearly 3.3 million Yemeni people, including 2.1 million children, are currently suffering from acute malnutrition. The Al-Saud aggression has also taken a heavy toll on the country’s facilities and infrastructure, destroying many hospitals, schools, and factories.
The WHO now classifies Yemen as one of the worst humanitarian emergencies in the world alongside Syria, South Sudan, Nigeria and Iraq.