You know things are bad in Saudi Arabia when one of its princes, and son of the state’s founder, is openly calling for a coup to displace the current King. This isn’t just some ambitious power play either, Saudi Arabia is an unmitigated disaster. I’ve repeatedly pointed this out, and also predicted regime change on several occasions.
For example in the post, The Great Wall of Saudi – Feudal Desert Kingdom to Build 600-Mile Wall to Protect from ISIS, I wrote:
I believe that the recent drop in oil prices puts the current leadership in Saudi Arabia under a significantly higher threat of “regime change” over the next several years. In fact, I’d be surprised if the current status quo continues beyond 2020. While many have noted that the Gulf states are in a good position to ride out the recent price collapse due to massive FX reserves, these reserves can go much faster than expected. Particularly when you need to consistently bribe your own citizenry and build enormous walls on your northern and southern borders.
It appears this rebel prince can see the writing on the wall, and is wisely trying to diffuse the situation before they are all removed unceremoniously by non-royals.
To better understand the situation, it’s key to have a sense of the dynamics currently in play. In January, there was a major transition in Saudi leadership, which resulted in Prince Mohammed bin Salman, also known as “Reckless,” taking on dramatically increased responsibilities. In fact, many are claiming that “Reckless” is actually running the country due to the King’s (his father) poor health. I suggest reading the May post, New Saudi King Unveils Internal Power Shake-up in Desperate Pivot Toward Increased Authoritarianism, to get caught up.
In the months since that post was published, things in Saudi Arabia have only deteriorated. An insane, barbaric war has been unleashed in Yemen, which recently resulted in the death of 130 people at a wedding party. For one Saudi prince, enough is enough.
A senior Saudi prince and grandson of the state’s founder has issued an unprecedented call for change in the country’s leadership, the Guardian reported on Monday.
The prince, who was not named for security reasons, wrote two letters to members of the sprawling royal family earlier this month calling for the removal of the current leader, King Salman, who ascended to the throne in January this year.
The prince reportedly told the Guardian that the king is not in good health and that recent events in the kingdom have led to disquiet in the royal family, as well as among the wider public.
“The king is not in a stable condition and in reality the son of the king [Mohammed bin Salman] is ruling the kingdom,” the prince is quoted as saying.
As mentioned earlier, the son refereed to above is also known as “Reckless.”
Blame for country’s slow and hesitant response to the hajj deaths and its halting efforts to deal with the other challenges is being laid at the door of King Salman, his crown prince, Mohammed bin Nayef, and the deputy crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, Salman’s son.
Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a new arrival to the Saudi senior leadership team, has quickly become one of the most controversial. Although still very young by Saudi standards – officially 35 but rumored to be much younger – he holds a multitude of posts including minister of defense and chair of the Council for Economic and Development Affairs, which is the country’s main economic policymaking committee.
Nicknamed “Reckless,” the prince is regarded as being the main proponent of the war in Yemen, which continues to grind on, despite punishing attacks by the Saudi air force and ground forces.
Now, many are accusing Mohammed bin Salman of rushing into the war without a proper military strategy or an exit plan.
The letters from the unnamed prince call on the 13 surviving sons of Ibn Saud – specifically the princes Talal, Turki and Ahmed bin Abdulaziz – to unite and remove the leadership in a palace coup, before choosing a new government from within the royal family.
The letters are the clearest indication of strife within the royal family since King Faisal deposed King Saud in a palace coup in 1964.
If you’re caught up on your Game of Thrones, you know that this can end in only one of two ways. Either outcome will result in some sort of regime change.
Either the rebel prince succeeds in convincing enough people who matter to remove the King, or the King counters and drives the prince out. The former situation is far and away the best option for stability in the Middle East, and would likely allow the Saudi royal lineage to hold on to power for longer. If the second scenario unfolds, current leadership will crack down even harder on dissent and run the state further into the ground. This behavior will ultimately lead to an unpredictable and likely violent revolution, and if you think the Middle East is volatile now, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
As John F. Kennedy accurately noted:
Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.
This also applies to Saudi Arabia.
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