September 24, 2018


Saudi Arabia is at its least stable in 50 years (Bruce Riedel, September 23, 2018, Al Monitor)

The crown prince's signature policy initiative is the war in Yemen. A senior royal, Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, publicly blamed Mohammed bin Salman for the war in an interview this month in London. Ahmed is the king's half brother and the son of Ibn Saud, the founder of the modern kingdom. The video of the prince's comments went viral in the kingdom; Ahmed said publicly what many others have been saying privately about the war for months.

The war is now in its fourth year with no end in sight. The Houthis have fired over 60,000 rockets across the border to depopulate scores of Saudi border villages and almost 200 ballistic missiles at Saudi cities, including Riyadh. The Royal Saudi Air Force and its partners have wrecked the feeble infrastructure of Yemen and caused dozens of attacks on civilians. Yemen is now in a "death channel," as one observer calls the catastrophe.

The United Nations said this month that three-quarters of Yemenis are at risk of malnutrition and disease. Eight million do not know where their next meal will come from and 5 million may soon join that category of extreme malnutrition and risk. The Saudi blockade is Mohammed bin Salman's strategy as defense minister and he deserves accountability for its results. The war has produced an anti-Saudi reaction worldwide.

The blockade of Qatar is another foreign policy debacle for the crown prince. A prominent clerical reformer has been arrested and may be executed for criticizing the blockade. The Gulf Cooperation Council has all but collapsed.

There is much speculation that the Saudis had a role in the Sept 22 attack in Ahvaz, Iran. The crown prince has publicly said he wants to fight Iran inside Iran. The Ahvaz attack is certain to fuel sectarian tensions throughout the region and inside the kingdom.

At home, the roundup of prominent Saudis last fall at the Ritz-Carlton has led to capital flight and much reduced foreign investment. Confidence in the economy and the prince's handling of economic issues is dropping. His signature plan to open up ARAMCO is now dead, the king having killed it. The prince arrests any independent voice -- even if it is supporters of allowing women to drive, which he pushed for.

Fearing for his security, the crown prince is said to spend many nights on his half-billion-dollar yacht moored in Jeddah. It's a floating palace longer than a football field and with many perks. It is also a potential escape hatch. 

Luring the Sa'uds deeper into unwinnable and deestabilizing anti-Shi'a conflicts is as big a foreign policy coup as miring the Russians in Syria.  If only either of them was intentional...

Toppling the Wahabbist regime is the big enchilada of the war against Salafism.

Posted by at September 24, 2018 4:20 AM