This article by Graeme Wood published by The Atlantic takes an in-depth look at who Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin salman really is and how he wields so much power. Here is an excerpt:
Mohammed bin salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, is 36 years old and has led his country for almost five years. His father, the 86-year-old King Salman, has rarely been seen in public since 2019, and even MBS—as he is universally known—has faced the world only a few times since the pandemic began. Once, he was ubiquitous, on a never-ending publicity tour to promote his plan to modernize his father’s kingdom. But soon after the murder of the Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, MBS curtailed his travel. His last interview with non-Saudi press was more than two years ago. The CIA concluded that he had ordered Khashoggi’s murder, and Saudi Arabia’s own prosecutors found that it had been conducted by some of the crown prince’s closest aides. They are thought to have dismembered Khashoggi and disintegrated his corpse.
MBS had already developed a reputation for ruthlessness. In 2017, he rounded up hundreds of members of his own family and other wealthy Saudis and imprisoned them in Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton hotel on informal charges of corruption. The Khashoggi murder fixed a view of the crown prince as brutish, thin-skinned, and psychopathic. Among those who share a dark appraisal of MBS is President Joe Biden, who has so far refused to speak with him. Many in Washington and other Western capitals hope his rise to the throne might still be averted.
But within the kingdom, MBS’s succession is understood as inevitable. “Ask any Saudi, anyone at all, whether MBS will be king,” a senior Saudi diplomat told me. “If there are people in Washington who think he will not be, then I cannot help them. I am not a psychiatrist.”
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