We have reported several times on the drift of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia away from a theocratic monarchy that was willing to tolerate western values and morals for the sake of doing business towards becoming an isolated, fabulously wealthy and dangerous sponsor of terrorism in the cause of spreading a fundamentalist version of Islam as widely as possible throughout the world.
The present ruler, King Salman is over 80 years old, ailing and though nominally the supreme ruler, cannot be said to truly be in charge of anything beyond his own body functions (assuming he IS in control of his body functions,). The recently elevated next in line, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is an extremist and a jihadist, who supports a literal interpretation of The Koran and would seek to impose Sharia law in all nations where there is a Sunni Muslim majority.
The problem is the man who was bumped down the pecking order resents his demotion, still has a lot of influence and has the support of the CIA. In other words he's still a contender.
After his successful elevation to Crown Prince, Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) has now been appointed by King Salman to be in charge during the monarch's holiday to Morocco. The King’s holiday comes at a time of relative instability in the Kingdom, as the effects of the removal of former Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef at the end of the Ramadan period continue to linger.
King Salman’s choice to award his son the position of Crown Prince was expected, but insiders are warning that his predecessor still holds a great deal of influence. To put MBS in charge during this already very volatile period in the Gulf, as the Saudi-led alliance continues to up the pressure on Arab neighbor Qatar, is feeding into uncertainty.
The Crown Prince also faces pressure due to the lack of progress in his personal prohject, the Yemen War (against the Shia Muslim Houthi rebels and their backers, Iran), the failure of the Saudi strategy to stabilize the oil market, and the Qatar crisis, triggered by MBS' decision to blockade the tiny state by land, sea and air, have put a major dent in the confidence of Saudi Arabia's trading partners. The impact of these problems is being kept at bay by the enormous financial reserves of Saudi Arabia, but as the list of failing MBS initiated endeavors grows, his position in the Kingdom is under increasing pressure.
At the same time, rumors are spreading that the health of King Salman has further deteriorated. Sources in Saudi Arabia have suggested that King Salman is even considering abdication in the next few months to put MBS on the throne. The current rule of MBS during the King’s holiday could be a taste of things to come.
As mentioned above the position of MBS as nominated successor is not entirely secure, a significant group of royal family members oppose the position of MBS in general and are scared he might declare their regular shopping expeditions to harrods in London or Gallieries Lafayete in Paris to be unislamic. Further opposition exists within the old guard of the security forces, with Miteb Bin Abdullah, currently head of the Saudi Arabian National Guard, seen as a possible target for removal. The National Guard is regarded, if used by the opposition, as a real threat to MBS in general and is very loyal to former King Abdullah’s entourage. The Guards were not mentioned in the latest Royal Decree, a sign of their importance and power within the Kingdom. All together it suggests the defeat of ISIS in Syria and Iraq is a long way from the end of the middle east's current round of local wars.
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