Will Saudi Crown Prince’s Overstepping Be His Undoing?
Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) is de facto kingdom ruler. His father king Salman placed him in charge of regime domestic and geopolitical policies.
Blood on his hands multiple times over only matters when featured in world headlines. Will his likely direct responsibility for Jamal Khashoggi’s brutal abduction and murder in Istanbul be his coup de grace?
Is he too damaged goods to remain crown prince, too incompetent to succeed his father as king, too unacceptable to the West?
Is the price for Riyadh maintaining longstanding dirty business as usual with the world community his removal as crown prince?
He partnered with Washington’s aggression in Yemen, creating the world’s gravest humanitarian crisis, millions of Yemenis at risk of death by Saudi/UAE terror-bombing, suffocating blockade, untreated diseases or starvation – conditions in the country getting more world attention in the wake of Khashoggi’s murder.
He’s held Qatar hostage to unacceptable demands no ruling authorities anywhere would accept, likely angering the US and EU over what’s going on, festering without resolution since June 2017.
He attempted to force Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri to publicly resign, after summoning him like a vassal to the kingdom and detaining him.
He detained scores of ruling family members and Saudi businessmen at Riyadh’s Ritz Carlton hotel, demanding a virtual ransom, amounting to billions of dollars in assets and properties for their release.
Since appointed crown prince in June 2017, he consolidated power by eliminating potential rivals, solidifying control over kingdom domestic and geopolitical affairs – including its economy, foreign relations, military, interior ministry, and intelligence/security apparatus.
Did his power grab overstep? Did it destabilize the kingdom? Was Khashoggi’s abduction and murder a glaring example of incompetence? Will it be his undoing?
It created an international uproar, continuing four weeks after the October 2 incident. After near silence or equivocating for weeks, even Trump finally said MBS “is running things over there…He’s running things and so if anybody were going to be (involved in a plot to Kill Khashoggi), it would be him.”
In Ankara last week, CIA director Gina Haspel reportedly heard and viewed damning evidence about Khashoggi’s murder on Turkish audio tapes and video recordings.
Langley likely already had the same information from its monitoring of events in Istanbul and elsewhere in Turkey.
According to the Financial Times, MBS’ elevation to crown prince displaced his cousin Mohammad bin Nayef, “a darling of Western intelligence.”
“(M)any were wary of his young, ambitious and headstrong replacement, say former and serving intelligence officials.”
MBS now faces “growing doubts among some of his kingdom’s closest allies about how to continue working with him.”
According to an unnamed former senior Western intelligence official, “(i)t will be harder under MBS to have the same degree of confidence (that) we can work with Saudi Arabia in light of the brutal murder of Khashoggi.”
After over two weeks of denials, kingdom officials finally admitted the killing was “premeditated,” after a phony story about a fist fight/brawl in the Istanbul consulate, causing his unintended death.
At the same time, Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir and other kingdom officials are going all-out to shield MBS from responsibility, shifting blame to other Saudis – ignoring who ordered Khashoggi’s elimination.
Even Trump called what’s gone on “the worst coverup ever,” beginning to doubt MBS’ denial of involvement.
According to the FT, “(t))he slow collapse in trust, played out in public, represents a dramatic departure from the close and covert relationship that the CIA and MI6 developed with his ousted cousin and rival for power, Mohammed bin Nayef.”
Is the CIA concerned about how MBS as king “would have a detrimental impact on the quality of Saudi intelligence?”
Some Western officials call his actions “reckless.” Does it indicate his shaky status?
If Langley wants him replaced, his days could be numbered – even though he’s king Salman’s favorite son.
My newest book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”