Sunday, August 2, 2015

THE MOHAMED BIN SALMAN DILEMMA; The Throne or the Abyss By Ghassan Kadi 2 August 2015

By Ghassan Kadi
2 August 2015
Love them or hate them, the descendants of King Abdul-Aziz, the founder of the House of Saud, had always been united, and they always made consensual decisions. That was the wish of the dying king, a wish that his eldest sons heard, took to heart and never forgot.
A combination of intense procreation, time, money and greed has diluted this death-wish over the years, and the second generation royals were less determined to stick to it than their own fathers.
The biggest issue that played into this was that of succession. Given that the founding grandfather had forty five sons with a huge age gap in between them, succession was made initially from Abdul-Aziz to his eldest son Saud, but from there onwards it was based on a succession from older brother to younger brother.
When Khaled inherited the throne from his half-brother King Faisal who was murdered, there was an established and consensually-reached lineage for the first three in line, with Fahed as the Crown Prince, Abdullah as the Deputy Crown Prince, and Sultan as the third in line.
Khaled, Fahed and Abdullah eventually all became kings and all passed on, but there was a little twist that changed the fate of the next steps. 
The infamous Bandar Bin Sultan was hoping that once his father becomes king, he would become the rightful successor and the first grandson of Abdul Aziz to take the throne.
After all, his father Sultan had been the minister of defence for many years, and one of the senior princes in terms of hierarchy. But Bandar did not rest on his laurels, he had his own profile as a long-term Saudi Ambassador at Washington to capitalize on. To bolster his position and also be able to land a lethal blow on Iran, he decided to spearhead the campaign against Syria.
Never before had the Saudis taken such a hawkish approach with their foreign policies. Bandar however managed to rally up some princes around him and gained a lot of stature and his dream to become the first second generation prince to become king looked attainable.
But Bandar had two disasters that he was totally unprepared for down the pipeline. First of all, his father died before he made it to the throne. As if this was not bad enough, his hawkish policies failed in Syria. Bandar eventually fell on his sword and was marginalized in a couple of swift royal decrees; the first was when he was sacked as chief of Saudi intelligence by the late king Abdullah, and secondly when he was stripped off all office titles by the incumbent king Salman.
King Salman is one of the junior sons of Abdul Aziz. As a matter of fact, he is only four years older that his heavy-weight nephew Saud Al-Faisal who died recently. Salman has also been always junior in stature. His ascendance to the throne was meant to be a brotherly gesture done in accordance with the death-wish of Abdul-Aziz.
That said, the late king Abdullah had a huge succession problem to deal with.
Because of their ageing, many of the sons of Abdul Aziz who reached the throne did so at a very late age. They always counted on their younger half-brother Crown Princes to be in charge. Fahed was the first to assume this uncrowned king role. By the time his half-brother Khaled became king, he was very old and Fahed became the uncrowned king, and later on, the same happened when Fahed became king and Abdullah took over the runnings of the kingdom.
The lineage to the crown that was set up in 1978 with Sultan as the third in line remained in force for over thirty years. But after the death of Sultan, Abdullah had to change the lineage twice because of the deaths of ageing and ailing crown princes among other things. When Abdullah died, he was unable to leave behind that firm lineage that had the same power like the one that lifted him to the throne. Whether he liked it or not, the succession lineage he left behind had the hallmarks of “after me, the flood”
The new king Salman who is 79 years old, and also reportedly a sufferer of Alzheimers disease, didn't have the regular Saudi established either political or succession lineage to follow. His power-hopeful son Mohamad wanted to secure his position to be the first king from the second generation, so he talked his father into turning the tables, making a coup within the royals, thereby marginalizing the old guards and appointing him as the deputy crown prince. With the king and crown prince both old and sick, in effect, the arrogant and inexperienced 30 years old Mohamed bin Salman became the uncrowned king and the first to assume this position from the second generation royals.
If Bandar was bad enough to take the gamble of launching the proxy-war against Syria, the new arrogant king-hopeful did not only ignore the death-wish of the grandfather let alone learned from the mistake of his cousin Bandar, he has gone further and actually engaged the Saudi Army for the first time ever in combat, and in Yemen out of all places.
He thought it was all planned well. He truly counted on Pakistani and Egyptian ground troops to support him and put boots on the ground for him. He was wrong on both counts. Then came the icing on the cake; the signing of the Iran nuclear deal. His “Royal arrogance” is feeling the coldness of being alone.
Given that he has no idea how to deal with what is left of Bandar's war aka Syria. Suddenly he sees himself facing two huge threats; Syria and Yemen... well make that three when you add ISIS to the equation.
He is quickly realizing that Yemenis are not less fierce as fighters than the Afghanis. With recent bomb attacks in the Saudi Eastern Province and Kuwait, his fear is not only about his own self-promised throne, but also about the continuity of the House of Saud.
But according to reliable recent reports, it seems that Mohamed has learned something from his cousin Bandar.
By a twist of fate, almost exactly to the day two years ago his cousin Bandar stormed into Moscow parading like Don Quixote trying to intimidate, threaten and bribe President Putin. Two years later, Mohamed now realises that President Putin is an important person not to be under-rated. Feeling abandoned by the Americans and bogged down in two wars and facing the threat of ISIS, when Putin offered him an opportunity to extend an olive branch to Syria, it is not at all surprising that he grabbed it like someone drowning grabbing a lifebuoy.
His eventual Russian-sponsored and brokered meeting with Syrian General Ali Mamluk was meant to be the ice-breaker. The two parties agreed to disagree on many issues, but agreed to meet again.
Neither the Saudis nor the Syrian officials denied this secret meeting after it was reported on the Arabic paper Al-Akhbar and co-published on the highly reliable Al-Manar. The only medium who denied it ever happened was an obscure anti-Hezbollah Shiite Arabic-language online newspaper by the name of Al-Jounouieh. Parties who are in shock or in denial that the meeting did take place are suddenly quoting Al-Jounoubieh.
This meeting was not expected to solve the huge impasse between Syria and Saudi Arabia. As a matter of fact, it was not expected to happen at all, and the fact that it did happen is a miracle of its own.
Where will Mohamed Bin Salman go from here is not really the pertinent question. What is more pertinent is what options has he got. He has nothing left to gain in Syria and a lot to lose in Yemen. Deep down inside he knows that if he can count on Russia to get him out of the mess in Syria, he may use her services later on in Yemen. It is truly a choice between the throne and the abyss.

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