Will the crown prince of Saudi Arabia survive? The Middle East is such a strange place that amongst the Arab leadership, if you have zero votes but are ruthless, you are automatically their fearless leader.
Such is the case with the latest reformer of the Muslim world – the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammad bin Salman, also known as MBS.
His recent show of force came in the form of arranging the chopping up of political foe and critic Jamal Khashoggi and carting away the body parts in a waiting jet to Saudi Arabia.
When the dots were connected and they led all the way to the royal palace, the world saw it as a gruesome act implicating MBS. But in the kingdom, it was just another day and business as usual.
How did the world react?
- USA: President Donald Trump would not like trade deals to be impacted unless there is absolute proof that MBS is directly complicit
- Israel: After many years there is a thaw in relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel so NO COMMENT is the best policy
- Europe: Europe and Britain are making more noise in this case but will quiet down once it hurts their purse strings
- OIC/Muslim World: Saudi Arabia is a very strong player in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation at the UN and controls the rest of the Muslim world except those who have aligned themselves with the regime in Iran. Hence it is not a major challenge for MBS.
The status of the crown prince is not a given. If the king were to die, a tribal council validates the next king (heir). So MBS has to straighten out his relations with tribal leaders in the House of Saud to reaffirm his position.
He also needs time for the international community to move past this little “chop chop” incident. Uglier incidents have happened in the Middle East and dumber dictators have survived.
So in my opinion, unless there is a palace coup and if he remains alive, MBS will overcome this blip on his career.