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MBS’ Dangerous Power Grab

Jonah Shepp sees through [1] the “anti-corruption” pretext used for MBS’ purges in Saudi Arabia [2]:

Of course, a Saudi anti-corruption committee is absurd on its face, because corruption is fundamental to the Saudi way of governing and doing business and everyone in the royal family is in a strict sense “corrupt” — unless we’re meant to believe bin Salman earned his own half-billion-dollar yacht legitimately. The kangaroo-court nature of the committee was made even clearer when it gave itself the power to disregard the law and issued arrest warrants within hours of its formation. This is not a victory against corruption, but rather a power move in Saudi palace intrigue, one with troubling implications.

Many observers have [3] noticed [4] the similarities [5] between Mohammed bin Salman’s consolidation of power and that of Chinese President Xi Jinping. That would be a worrisome development even if MBS had demonstrated competence at governing up until now, but it is even more dangerous when so much power is being concentrated in the hands of a young and reckless neophyte. We have seen how much damage the crown prince already did before this power grab, and I would assume that he will do much more harm now that he is under fewer constraints.

As Shepp notes later on, Saudi Arabia is actually becoming much more authoritarian than it already was, and MBS is concentrating more power in his hands than the old system allowed:

change_me

The separation of control over the security forces was meant to keep any one individual or branch within the family from growing too powerful; bin Salman now has more power than any member of his family was really ever meant to have. He’s also breaking the mold of Saudi patronage politics, the consequences of which are unpredictable.

Greg Gause warns [6] that the heavy-handed tactics MBS is using will come back to haunt him:

“It’s overkill – and overkill in a way that makes it harder to achieve his long-term objectives,” said Gause.

If there is one word that sums up MBS’ brief career, it would probably be overkill. It remains to be seen whether MBS’ power grab will produce a significant backlash and what form that backlash will take, but like everything else he has done the purges were excessive and appear to have been done without much thought for the possible pitfalls.

7 Comments (Open | Close)

7 Comments To "MBS’ Dangerous Power Grab"

#1 Comment By His and Her Porsches On November 6, 2017 @ 3:59 pm

“As Shepp notes later on, Saudi Arabia is actually becoming much more authoritarian than it already was, and MBS is concentrating more power in his hands than the old system allowed”

… b-b-but SAUDI WOMEN CAN DRIVE CARS now! He’s a MODERATE! And corruption IS a big problem there! I know this because THE NEW YORK TIMES and THE WASHINGTON POST tell me so!

#2 Comment By The Not-So-Great Game On November 6, 2017 @ 5:25 pm

Body count’s rising. Prince Abdul Aziz bin Fahd was just killed in a firefight as MBS’s goon squad moved in to arrest him.

#3 Comment By Hassan On November 6, 2017 @ 5:44 pm

Great point and a reminder why off-hands intellectuals and ‘policy writers’ fail to grasp the reality of a situation often. The reality was that Saudi’s way of governing had a lot of group processes, so to speak, and had a lot of informal feedbacks and inputs from officials and business community. It was not as authoritarian as one might think. Now comes this ‘modernist’ and ‘educated’ young leader who lets women drive (to the western journalist’s collective relief), and speaks a modern language in public, etc. and everyone in NYT thinks this is ‘progress’. In reality, however, MBS is destroying traditional ways to consolidate power. His appetite for populism, war, and change stem from his enormous ambition. This KID can’t wait to grab the power the traditional ways, a stupid and dangerous kid.

#4 Comment By ADC Wonk On November 6, 2017 @ 6:00 pm

David Ignatius’s column on what appears to be unfolding in Saudi Arabia.

MBS is emboldened by strong support from President Trump and his inner circle, who see him as a kindred disrupter of the status quo — at once a wealthy tycoon and a populist insurgent. It was probably no accident that last month, Jared Kushner, Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, made a personal visit to Riyadh. The two princes are said to have stayed up until nearly 4 a.m. several nights, swapping stories and planning strategy.

#5 Comment By liberal On November 6, 2017 @ 8:46 pm

Hassan wrote, Great point and a reminder why off-hands intellectuals and ‘policy writers’ fail to grasp the reality of a situation often.

IMHO it has little to do with being intellectual or overly-wonkish, and much more to do with the neoconservative sympathies of the political establishment in the US and much of the rest of the Western world.

#6 Comment By Alex (the one that likes Ike) On November 6, 2017 @ 9:46 pm

Democrats and Republicans replace each other in the White House, but the admiration of the Saudi Arabia always stays there. I wonder whether there is something Freudian in it.

#7 Comment By MEexpert On November 7, 2017 @ 9:09 pm

The fact that only Israel and US see something positive in the developments in Saudi Arabia is enough for me to know that something bad is going to happen in the Middle East and soon.