Following the death of Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz in 2015, the star of Mohammad bin Salman (MBS), the son of the current King Salman, is on the rise.
With just seven years at the helm, he consolidated his control over the kingdom, resulting in him now being widely recognized as the uncrowned king.
Although he rose to prominence instantly after his father’s reign, he was officially named crown prince in 2017 and has never looked back. With growing concerns over the health of the nearly 86-year-old King Salman, MBS, 36, takes charge of all important matters of state and enjoys proper royal protocol, with the king rarely making public appearances .
It is reported that since the outbreak of Covid-19, King Salman has resided in Neom, a futuristic development on the Red Sea. His last meeting with a foreign official in Riyadh was in March 2020, when he spoke with then British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, and his last trip abroad was to Oman to present his condolences on the death of Sultan Qaboos in January 2020.
Apparently King Salman is fine with delegating all important matters to MBS, otherwise in an absolute monarchy no one can eclipse the ruling monarch.
In fact, King Salman actively helped MBS strengthen his grip on power and trusted the young crown prince.
It is widely recognized that MBS enjoys huge support among the country’s youth who constitute the majority in the kingdom.
This fact was recalled when a US intelligence report alleged that the crown prince approved the operation to capture or kill journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but within minutes of the report’s release many Saudis flooded Twitter with the hashtag saying, “We are all Mohammad bin Salman. Saudi Arabia’s biggest newspapers and TV stations did not cover the publication of the report, broadcasting sporting events and other unrelated programs instead.
It was mentioned in the press that the nation is fortified, adding that the Biden administration will soon realize that the complex problems of the region will not be solved by such methods.
Since becoming the de facto ruler, MBS has sought to position himself as a champion of human rights, even though his international reputation was damaged by the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.
The crown prince has opened up Saudi Arabia to tourists and foreign investment in a bid to diversify the economy of the world’s biggest oil exporter away from crude oil.
He oversaw sweeping social changes, including allowing women to drive and work in the public sector, allowing citizens to take advantage of the additional income and recreational opportunities that opened up across the country.
He even seemed more open to Israel than his father, allowing his commercial planes to fly over Saudi airspace.
MBS clearly benefited from MBS clearly benefited from the King’s longevity as his continued presence conveys traditional authority to cover up MBS’s youth and unconventional actions while rarely impeding them. Reliable sources confirm that the king is in excellent health, exercises daily but is 86 years old and is uncomfortable wearing a mask and tends to want to shake hands and greet people warmly, so extra precautions are taken to keep it safe and away from public gatherings.
MBS embarked on a tour of the Gulf ahead of the OIC summit meeting with heads of member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council. It is now openly mentioned that any current arrangement with the royal court only goes through the office of the crown prince and the king is no longer in the picture.
The fact that quickly emerges is that MBS is no longer a king in the making, but a king in the palace. His path to the throne has been clear and without predictable obstacles for quite some time after chasing one rival after another.
Despite some concern that the international community did not want to deal with MBS, particularly after the murder of Khashoggi, these fears dissipated after French President Macron’s visit to Saudi Arabia during which MBS took care of all the questions with a beaming smile.
While US President Biden has promised a tougher approach than his predecessor Donald Trump and has yet to communicate directly with MBS, the administration has made it clear that it is unavoidable and only a matter of time.
Apparently, there is no identifiable source of effective opposition inside or outside the royal family and MBS has indeed grown bigger and more powerful. In this context, however, the impression conveyed is that state coercion is primarily the reason for keeping things quiet.
Most recently Princess Basma bint Saud Al Saud, 57, a member of the royal family long seen as a supporter of women’s rights and a constitutional monarchy, detained since March 2019, implored King Salman and MBS in April 2020 release her for health reasons. .
She was therefore released with her daughter Suhoud. Princess Basmah was arrested shortly before a planned trip to Switzerland for medical treatment, but the nature of her illness was never revealed.
There is little doubt that MBS’s reform campaign has come at the expense of the previous heir apparent to the throne, Mohammed bin Nayef. Despite the reform process, Saudi authorities have also cracked down on dissenters and even potential opponents, ranging from preachers to women’s rights activists and even the royal family.
As a result, Princess Basmah was detained in Al-Ha’ir prison, where many other political detainees were incarcerated. In written testimony to the United Nations in 2020, her family said her detention was likely due in large part to her past as an outspoken critic of abuse and that she was also seen as an ally of Mohammed bin Nayef.
It is recalled that in November 2017, an extensive anti-corruption campaign saw the luxurious Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh serve for three months as a de facto detention center for dozens of princes and high officials suspected of corruption or disloyalty. In March 2020, the Royal Guard arrested King Salman’s brother and nephew, accusing them of plotting a coup against Prince Mohammed. King Salman’s real brother Ahmed was arrested after he was persuaded to come to the kingdom.
While living abroad, he openly criticized King Salman and MBS. Former Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef is also under house arrest with the sons of the late King Abdullah, including Prince Miteb bin Abdullah who was head of the Saudi National Guard.