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Saturday, January 20, 2018

“Dark horse”: what achieves the Saudi crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman


Mohammed bin Salman, was declared heir to the throne (and, hence, the future king) of Saudi Arabia only five months ago. And during this time, 31-year-old son of the reigning king Salman bin Abdulaziz has managed to assert themselves – both inside the Kingdom and outside it. His father, 31 December will be 82 years old, and therefore experts do not exclude that Mohammad bin Salman will take the throne in the near future. What is the consequence of the planned and partially already ongoing transformation? How can I change the US relationship with Saudi Arabia is a traditional ally of the Americans in the middle East? About this and about many other “MK” was told by the orientalist, the author of “Saudi Arabia. XXI century in the homeland of Islam” Konstantin DUDAREV.


photo: AP

The fight against corruption or power?

Mohammed bin Salman some call a “dark horse”, but the political experience he lacks. Eight years ago he was appointed special adviser to the king his father, and in 2012-m to year became the Deputy Minister of defence. From January 2015 he became the head of the Royal court and the Ministry of defense of Saudi Arabia.

It is considered, what exactly Mohammed bin Salman (or as it is sometimes called in the press, MBS) stood for the active intervention of the Kingdom in the Affairs of other States. So, when Saudi Arabia began fighting with the Houthi rebels in Yemen, which, according to Riyadh has a long-standing enemy of the Saudis is Iran.

Riyadh informally led a coalition of countries, in fact, declared diplomatic war Qatar this summer.

While Mohammed bin Salman as Minister of defense intensified and the actions of the Saudis in Syria – Riyadh, however, prefer the direct intervention support for specific groups opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

In early November, the crown Prince stood at the head of the anticorruption Committee of the Kingdom and immediately got down to business: was arrested 11 princes, as well as dozens of current and former officials. Some analysts, however, saw this as not so much the fight against corruption, but an attempt of Muhammad bin Salman reformat the political elites of Saudi Arabia for themselves.

“I think there are both factors, says in this regard, the orientalist Konstantin Dudarev. – By itself, the fight against corruption is of great importance, especially at this stage when the task to attract investment in the country to achieve ambitious economic goals. Prince says, in particular, that the Kingdom intends in the coming years to join the “club” ten powers with the most powerful economies. And the arrests of 11 princes, former Ministers, prominent businessmen show the seriousness of these intentions. Of course, not surprising is the sharpness of these actions previously in Saudi Arabia was observed. But why in the world say that there is a certain sweep of the elites? Arrests is not just an episode, they cannot be considered in isolation from those of radical reform – not just economic but social, moral and spiritual, – which was started by king Salman and implemented in the framework of the strategy “Vision 2030”.

The government is trying to consolidate its position in the face of opposition – those who are not willing to put up with the changes. It is clear that there are ideological opponents of the reforms is, first and foremost, members of the clergy. But it is worth remembering that even before the November arrests, a few months ago were removed from their posts thousands of imams of mosques of Saudi Arabia, and some even detained”.

Another important factor is the condition of the ruling of king Salman. “He was a great Manager, a great Governor (almost a century) of Riyadh, – emphasizes the expert. But he was already over eighty, he had several strokes. And according to some, he suffers from dementia. And for anybody not a secret that he is preparing a replacement in the person of Mohammed bin Salman: already there is talk that the king may until the end of the year to abdicate in favor of crown Prince. And, of course, it is necessary to strengthen the position of the MBS”.

“Opponents have something to accuse him”

It is logical that in the fight against political opponents for strengthening their own positions, turn to members of the Royal family. Some of them, on the one hand, in principle dissatisfied with the Mohammed bin Salman, on the other – ready and to compete with him.

“They have something to show him as a reproach, reminds Konstantin Dudarev. – That the events in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia is bogged down, and the case has already reached the missile strike the Houthis in the direction of Riyadh. This is the situation in Syria, where the Saudis have invested a lot of money in support of the opposition, but now they actually lost. The main requirement of Riyadh was the departure of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but he remained in power. And finally, the resignation of the Prime Minister of Lebanon Saad Hariri, who is a citizen of Saudi Arabia and has spent most of his life in the Kingdom, leading the biggest construction company. It is no secret that Riyadh supported the designation of Hariri, the Lebanese Prime Minister, putting before him the task: to limit the influence of the country of the Pro-Iranian Hezbollah. But as a result of events in Syria, the position of this group in Lebanon has only increased, which caused discontent in Saudi Arabia. And Hariri was asked to resign – at least that is how it is perceived by the people close to these processes.”

Not only the Saudis say the foreign policy activity of the Mohammed bin Salman. In the foreign media, the crown Prince and then called “the gambler”, even able to redraw the map of the Middle East – not in terms of state borders and spheres of influence. However, yet tangible success on account of the Mohammed bin Salman a bit.

“As for Yemen, it is clear that the intervention of Saudi Arabia in this conflict was not very well thought out decision, – the expert believes. Yemen is a mountainous country, and, as they say, to each inhabitant a two Kalashnikov… It’s like in Afghanistan. And it is unlikely military victory is achievable there. The problem should be solved through negotiations, than Russia, as far as I know, accepts the mediation”.

The need of Saudi Arabia for the solution of the main for Saudis conflict – confrontation between Riyadh and Tehran.

“A huge advantage of Russia is that, unlike, for example, the United States, our country has established friendly relations with Iran and Saudi Arabia, and Yemen, and Iraq and Syria nothing to say… emphasizes Konstantin Dudarev. – It is important that Riyadh was awareness of the need for peaceful solutions to conflict situations. That this understanding is already coming, is indirectly evidenced by the inclusion of Saudi Arabia in Astana the process (a series of negotiations conducted from the beginning of 2017, the year in the capital of Kazakhstan; a major role is played by Russia, Turkey and Iran. – “MK”). Riyadh took on the task of creating a unified delegation from the Syrian opposition to attend the talks in Astana and Geneva (held under the auspices of the UN. – “MK”)”.

To get off the oil needle

But Mohammed bin Salman became famous not only proxy wars. He plans a major transformation in the country, which will be a logical continuation of reforms begun by his father.

“After coming to power of king Salman in Saudi Arabia has begun large-scale changes, – says Konstantin Dudarev. He, in particular, abandoned the paternalistic approach that the government ensure the welfare of citizens at the expense of oil revenues. After all, the subsidized prices of water, electricity and gasoline, resulting in the country suffered huge losses: water and electricity is spent unnecessarily, became widespread smuggling of petrol abroad… After oil prices fell, it became clear that revenues from hydrocarbons can no longer be regarded as a reliable source for sustainable economic development of the country – it may become only a diversified, full-fledged, diversified economy.

In addition, previously in Saudi Arabia was the predominant state sector. In the end, the task was to increase the role of the private sector. In the “Vision 2030″ we are talking about full-fledged development of the mining industry, steel, automobile, pharmaceutical. In addition, the country’s booming domestic tourism, which has brought tangible effect: easily and quickly creates jobs, infrastructure. And made a revolutionary decision on the development of entertainment – cinemas, theatres, musical concerts, – established the office, which announced the construction in Riyadh and soon the Opera house. Also on the outskirts of the capital will be built an amusement Park like Disneyland. The advantage of this approach is that you can quickly and without significant financial investments to create a lot of jobs.”

“Time bomb”

One of the main issues in connection with the imminent change of power in Saudi Arabia is the fate of us-Saudi relations. Riyadh is Washington’s main ally in the region, but between countries have accumulated a lot of problems.

“The relations between Saudi Arabia and the United States deteriorated after September 11, 2001, then there was an improvement, but “crack” was left, like Constantine Dudarev. The decline was observed during the presidency of Barack Obama, who, according to the Saudis, and gave up the Kingdom, having signed an agreement with Tehran about the Iranian nuclear program. At the same time, the Saudi leadership was piqued by the fact that Washington did not support the deposed President Hosni Mubarak. This in Riyadh concluded that the United States can do in relation to the Kingdom. Therefore, the trust between Saudi Arabia and the United States never recovered.

During the visit to the American leader of Donald trump, both sides agreed positions on Iran, and this forced Riyadh to go for a rapprochement. But, in my opinion, accords and agreements signed during the visit of U.S. President, are rather memorandums of intent. They are designed for the long term, and how will bilateral relations – it is too early to say. Now the Saudis to buy from Russia complexes of anti-aircraft missile systems s-400, which, naturally, does not cause satisfaction on the part of Washington. But there are more serious circumstance that can spoil bilateral relations is adopted last year in the US, a law allowing the families of victims of the September 11 attacks to sue Saudi Arabia (her subjects were 15 of the 19 participants in the 9/11 attacks). Obama, as you know, vetoed that document, but the us Congress has managed to overcome its two-thirds majority.

And several lawsuits have been received. About them is silent, but it is a time bomb. The Saudis even after the decision of Congress in 2016, the year declared its readiness to withdraw from its US assets in excess of 750 billion dollars, if the claims are open. As well, Riyadh has threatened to demand repayment of a debt over a hundred billion dollars. This is a very serious threat, and they can disrupt all the agreements. Although, of course, Saudi Arabia is extremely interested in American investment in the latest technology for the implementation of planned economic reforms.”

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