A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Apotheosis of Muhammad bin Salman

When I wrote my post last week on "The Splintering Gulf," I promised another post that would include the dramatic changes in Saudi policy, but illness and deadlines intruded, and now the architect of those policies has been named Crown Prince.

Though some are calling it a surprise move, few should be really surprised. Since his father ascended the throne two years  ago, he has steadily consolidated power, and now he has replaced his uncle,Muhammad bin Nayef, as heir to the throne. In a country long ruled by a gerontocracy, the Crown Prince is 31, half a century younger than the 81 year old King.

For most of the 20th century, Middle East analysts could take one thing for granted: Saudi policy would be cautious, conservative, and risk-averse. But no more. In Yemen, the Kingdom has been pursuing an aggressive war against a perceived enemy. And while the new Crown Prince, known as "MbS" to his Western admirers. is openly supportive of the US, he is also marked on an open challenge to a key US Ally, Qatar. Risk-averse Saudi Arabia is now risk-taking, and much can go wrong.

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