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The Cult of Mohammed bin Salman

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. (U.S. Department of State)

Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi responds to the news of the latest crackdown on activists:

Religious fanaticism that had tarnished Saudi Arabia’s image for decades has given way to a new and perhaps more pernicious fanaticism, a cult of blind loyalty to our leader.

Mohammed bin Salman’s Western cheerleaders have unfortunately helped to promote that cult because of their misplaced confidence in the crown prince’s judgment. The crown prince has done very little to earn the praise he has received from his fans in the West, and most of what he has done has been reckless and destructive. MbS’ approach to domestic “reform” has proven to be very similar to his handling of foreign affairs: the crown prince overreaches, sets unrealistic goals, acts impulsively, makes lots of enemies, and he manages to antagonize and attack even those that are ostensibly on his “side.”

I suspect for many of his admirers consider his record to be irrelevant as long as he persists in his hostility to Iran, but it is possible that some his fans will start to lose confidence if he keeps behaving this way. The latest crackdown should serve as a wake-up call for all of them that MbS is not the ruler they thought made him out to be. The same recklessness that has led Saudi Arabia into waging disastrous and atrocious war on Yemen mars everything the crown prince does, and it is more likely than not going to lead to greater instability and upheaval in the years to come.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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