Saudi Arabia has long been a country associated with Wahhabism. Wahhabism is a religious movement and Islamic Doctrine often known as an ultra conservative, austere form of Islam. There is an official pact between the House of Saud and Wahhabi clerics. The country is ruled by the Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman popularly known as MbS and it is about him that I explain it in this article.
Surely he has moved in a positive direction and undertaken various socio-political reforms in the country. For instance, allowing women to drive, which may seem ludicrous to the rest of the world but certainly is a leap ahead in the Wahabbi Kingdom. It may be very natural for the reader to develop a rosy picture of MbS from the above context, but to be able to form an opinion of him one must not remain oblivious to all his actions and decisions.
I am not a critic of MbS, but I do castigate him on some of his decisions and laud him on others. The time in which MbS rose to power was a time when the Arab world is itself in a conundrum. It was in the backdrop of the Muslim Brotherhood, Yemen Crisis and the despotism of oil that MbS rose to prominence. He has certainly walloped Arab Politics and now carries a lot of clouts in Saudi Arabia. He introduced Vision:2030 for Saudi Arabia, an aim to divest the economy from oil and increase privatization. Some call him the Architect of Modern Saudi Arabia but quite contrary to this he is also allegedly considered as the Architect of the Yemen crisis.
The Saudi-led coalition against the Shiite Houthi rebels is known for festering the conflict and I would not shy away to term it as the Yemen Armaggedon. MBS is blamed for creating the worldʼs worst humanitarian crisis as famine continues to affect 24 million people which was a result of a blockade done by the Saudiʼs in the regions having Houthiʼs predominance. This blockade was a brainchild of the Saudi “ChilldMbS”.
At the time when MbS is talking about reforms in the Islamic institutions in the country, he is skeptical of dissidents like Jamal Khashoggi. He is accused of pandering to the assassination of Jamal, in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. At the time when he implements anti-discriminatory gender laws like easing the male guardianship laws and allowing women to come at concerts, he had put various feminists and human rights activists under rendition. So MbS is seen living on a slippery slope and taking contradictory postures.
Maybe MbS is against parochial Wahabbi Islam but at the same time, I believe that he is unpleasant of any hostility. Probably that is the reason for his clout on dissidents and other activists. This shows us how MbS is someone who wants the plethora of power to rest with himself. This is also evident from the recent detention of various Saudi Royals in the Ritz Carlton, Riyadh under various corruption charges. Something to scoff here is that MbS recently bought a chateau in France for a whopping 300 million dollars.
Basically, this chicanery to the world and the Saudi people served the crown price immensely. He was able to gather a populist image in the META and at the same time consolidate more power. By his critics, MbS is often termed as an overweening autocrat. What the dilemma here for the world is that MbS is the only ruler of the kingdom whose constituency and support lies among the public outside the House of Saud. However, he has been accused of actually bringing in more power to the elite House of Saud. In one perspective he is really doing fine, he is moving while securing almost all grounds, something he needs for his vision ahead. Quite recently he was inkling at increasing the taxes and also announced for an IPO of Aramco, the state-owned oil company. These decisions require his public image of being a populist leader against the elite and also need him to have gargantuan powers. So it seems that till now he is able to manage both the things well.
The thing to worry from the Wahhabi pact is that while carrying these social reforms, he has brokered from his part of the deal with the Clerics. This might impact the 1744 pact and MbS might be on a slippery slope while tackling the Wahhabiʼs. However, his advent and prominence have sent Shock waves to the Arab and the Western world. He is often criticized by the international media for his aggression in Yemen, the Qatar diplomatic crisis and most recently the killing of Khashoggi. While CIA and U.N. have alleged that MbS was directly involved in the assassination and it was quite flagrant, it all seemed futile as it is impossible to reach the collar of MbS given the need of the oil by the world. Even Trump turned a blind eye as he didnʼt seem to spoil his cost-benefit split up from its historical ally, Saudi Arabia. This bickering today seems irrelevant when the world is deeply engrossed in its vested economic interests.
While today it seems that MbS has the backing, but it will only be ascertained in the coming years when oil will take a backseat, that how does the world react to MbS and his slippery stance and obviously his involvement in pogroms consciously oblivion to todayʼs world.