Column: Saudi Kingdom … Power Consolidation or Imminent Fragmentation?

By : Middle East Observer Staff

The last days in the rich kingdom of Saudi Arabia have witnessed an unprecedented political earthquake, others prefer to describe it as “Tsunami”.

Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman has put tens of strong royal princes and multi-billionaire businessmen into custody with corruption charges. The Saudi attorney general described the arrests as “merely the start of a vital process to root out corruption wherever it exists”.

It is important to put what is happening into a wider context in order to try to understand and speculate prospected scenarios in the near future.

King Salman did three moves in order to put his son, known as MBS, to be his crown prince.  Upon the death of late King Abdullah, King Salman made a full sweeping for the old management big heads including Khalid Twigri, the palace chief of staff and its strong man. King Salman then ousted his brother Prince Migren and put his son as the deputy crown prince of his cousin, the strong man Mohamed Bin Nayef, who succeeded Migren as crown prince. Few weeks ago, Bin Nayef was forced to go home and leave the place to the new crown price, the 32 years old MBS.

MBS has the full support of his Emirati friend, Mohamed Bin Zayed who gave him a wide access to President Trump and a lot of think tanks and lobby groups in USA where they introduced him as a modern figure that will bring the needed changes to the old kingdom, among which, a more secular approach in governance, ousting and cornering the Islamic figures that some describe them as hard liners. Among other changes is the openness to Israel; for the first time since its establishment in 1948, a secret visit was paid by MBS to Israel where he met Netanyahu, or at least he did in Jordan as sources hint to.

President Trump descripted the last dramatic incidents inside the royal family as “I have great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, they know exactly what they are doing,” he tweeted.

“Some of those they are harshly treating have been ‘milking’ their country for years!” Trump added.

During the past two years and since the access of King Salman to throne, a more prudent strategy and actions were taken. But all of them now can be seen as the foundation of a new birth of the kingdom, more young, more prudent and aggressive, unlike the old classical way it acted with during the last century, or at the same time it can be viewed as a real threat to the kingdom as many of the status quo are being shaky now and this Tsunami can result in a collapse and free fall of the aging kingdom.

For example, MBS has launched a war in Yemen, where at least 10 thousand people were killed, majority of them civilians, where he now is seeking a safe exit. He had a hard line position against Assad in Syria, took a harsh position against Hezbollah in Lebanon, forcing his ally Hariri to step down as the prime minster and accuse Iran of launching an act of war against Saudi Arabia … Domestically, he launches his new 2030 project to diversify the kingdom revenue sources, citizens are speaking up about their fear that life has become more difficult with the raise of petrol price, and taxes. Domestically MBS has put tens of Islamic scholars in prisons, with the normal Midestern accusations of destabilizing the country etc. His grip over Aal Sheikh family is obvious but corridor talks are saying it is not OK for many to see such a speedy way of converting the kingdom into a secular one under the claim of modernization.

The West is still silent towards what is happening in Saudi, Turkey’s reaction as well was like “It is an internal affair”, everyone is in wait and see mode …

The coming weeks will determine if MBS can get done with all his rivals to celebrate being a king before end of the year or other dramatic scenes can be witnessed.

Whatever the result would be, one can say Saudi Arabia is not the one known before, it is between two roads: one of autocracy and a rule of one man not a family, or another road of big men fighting. This is only a chapter in the Game of Throne but definitely not the end of it.