Recent primordial tactics in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) for centralization and consolidation of personal rule surfaced while four major events simultaneously struck Riyadh: the surprised resignation of the Lebanon’s Prime Minister, the interception of Yemen’s Houthis fired ballistic missile towards King Khalid International Airport, the constitution of the an anti-corruption committee leads by Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman and then subsequent detainment of 11 princes have imparted seismic waves across the world.
In past, steadfast and astute leaders have profoundly reshaped the geo political map of the planet. Over the centuries, sundry entities not only successfully challenged the contemporary order but also came up with their own version of rule. Julius Caesar was instrumental in establishing of the Roman Empire, Alexander’s intrinsic aspirations of ruling the entire planet extended his empire to the far lands of India, Cyrus and Ivan the great laid the foundations of Persian and Russian empires, respectively.
The personal aspirations to the power of individuals, in past, have elevated different states from being irrelevant to the one the mightiest empires of the contemporary world. However, these strategic thinkers and great conquerors of the distinct ages and regions often confronted with one common predicament, internal resistance and then subsequent purging. As an anti-corruption sweep Crown Prince detained 11 princes, 4 incumbent ministers and many former minister, businessmen and media house heads including Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, one of the richest men. The detained entities were accused of corruption, embezzlement and misuse of $100 billion over decades. According to Saudi Arabia’s attorney general, Sheikh Saud Al Mojeb, the kingdom had detained Two hundred and eight people in anti corruption purge and, later, seven were released without any charge.
Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman is the only connecting link among astonishing developments. In January 2015, Crown Prince Salman emerged dramatically and assumed the rein of one of the most powerful ministries, defence. The meteoric rise did not stop there and moved further with another shocking stroke when his nomination for heir to the throne superseded already nominated Muhammad bin Nayef. Subsequent to his rise to power, Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy has been revisited to adapt itself with changing power dynamics. Since January 2015, Crown Prince Salman spearheaded Yemen adventure, pivotal character behind Qatar’s diplomatic isolation, his meeting with Iraqi Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr in Jeddah, amity with Russia, restoration of the pre-Obama status quo and new heights in Sino-Saudi relations have been insinuating his de facto person in charge status of Saudi foreign policy. Similar to ancient rulers, the crown prince has embarked on much ambitious and risky adventure of altering the course of future events and disassociation from the past.
The crown prince seems very aware of Bismarck diplomacy and after a brief pause such diplomatic moves have been witnessed. As the prince stepped in power corridors, the confronted challenge was Iran’s growing diplomatic and military victories to both encircle and isolate the KSA. The prince has been relatively successful to turn around the international chessboard in KSA favour by launching unconventional steps to Saudi foreign policy. On global level, he endeavoured to make external milieu much conducive by opening up his country to Russia, massive energy deals with China, and restoring relations with USA. In addition, the crown prince has been successfully holding the delicate strategic and economic balance among the rival power players. Suffice to say, the crown prince neutralized the possibilities of external interventions before embarking upon internal cleansing.
After neutralizing external dangers, in the next phase, the crown prince turned his attention towards home. The current phase is to consolidate the achievements. In this phase, on one side, he shouldered the task of modernization of society while, on the other side, he cracked down on radical clergies and corrupt elements. Following the successful Iranian revolution, Iranian Shiite revolutionary leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, warned that such revolutions were bound to be replicated in regional states. The warning was clear threat to the Saudi Sunni regime and it adopted radical approach as preemptive instrument to counter Shiite version of Islam. In April 2017, Crown Prince also admired the influence of American culture over Saudi society and told in absence of it “we would have ended up like North Korea”.
Vision 2030 is an ambitious step in home that could reorient KSA outlook. Under the vision: ‘Saudi Green Card’ scheme for non Saudi foreigners, increase in non-oil revenues SAR 600bn ($160bn) by 2020 and SAR 1tn ($267bn) by 2030, creation of $ 3 tn ‘sovereign wealth fund’ and $500-billion futuristic city, Neom, are new skies. The successful completion of desired vision could cultivate KSA as global power. From implementation of vision 2030 to the lifting ban over women driving, all suggested reforms are peculiar to the KSA history. Crown Prince could engrave his name in Saudi history like Mustafa Kemal Atatürk did in Turk history but it is conditional with the success of his ambitious vision just as Chinese authoritative regime’s legitimacy has been confirmed by its economic progress. Otherwise, Crown Prince gamble can turn in strategic, economic and political disaster.
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy and position of Regional Rapport.