In the six weeks before Khashoggi’s disappearance, MBS not only managed to anger the U.S. military-industrial complex but the world’s most powerful bankers.
by Whitney Webb
Part 5 - The search begins for a new prince who will play along
As a consequence of the Khashoggi incident, there have been several reports from prominent publications claiming that efforts are now underway to replace MBS as crown prince.
One such report in France’s Le Figaro has stated that MBS is set to be “gradually” replaced by his even younger brother Khalid bin Salman, who has most recently served as the Saudi Ambassador to Washington. This choice is significant, as it shows that the powers-that-be are seeking to replace MBS with another McKinsey-bent “young Arab princeling” instead of the former Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef or another elder of the House of Saud who would oppose the privatization that MBS had promised but failed to deliver.
In a Washington Post op-ed, Khalid bin Salman’s support for the neoliberal Vision 2030 plan is clear, as he called it “a comprehensive plan for economic diversification as well as social and cultural reform” and echoed his older brother in stating that “our old course was not sustainable.”
Beyond his stated views in support of current Saudi policy, including the genocidal war the Saudis are waging in Yemen, not much else is known about Khalid, who has little political experience given his young age and his time spent as a fighter pilot in the Royal Saudi Air Force. Yet, in his capacity as Saudi ambassador, Khalid bin Salman has met with powerful Congressmen from both parties, as well as Lockheed Martin executives, cultivating personal ties in the process.
However, the Khashoggi incident has brought new scrutiny to Khalid bin Salman, given that he had personally met Khashoggi in the Saudi Embassy in Washington in early 2018, around the same time that Khashoggi was creating Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), his new “democracy promotion” group targeting the kingdom. According to friends of Khashoggi who spoke to NBC News, the meeting was casual and friendly and lasted about 30 minutes. The topics of the discussion of the meeting are still unknown.
Will MBS be replaced? It certainly remains to be seen, as strong public pressure and political threats may yet guide the crown prince back to the neoliberal fold. Yet, what is clear is that MBS’ rise to power was backed by the international elite and the Trump administration based on the promise of these neoliberal reforms and the mass sale of U.S. weapons to Saudi Arabia. However, in the months before Khashoggi’s disappearance, MBS gravely endangered both of these deals, angering those that had backed his consolidation of power. Such a cadre of powerful interests will not prove easy to placate.
While it may certainly seem ironic and perhaps amusing to some that a tyrant like MBS has come under such strong pressure from the international elite, there is reason for concern. Indeed, if Vision 2030 is fully implemented — whether by MBS or his successor — forcing neoliberalism on the Saudi population is likely to make the country very unstable, as nearly occurred when MBS tried to implement it early this year.
The intense pressure from global power players may cause MBS to value his staying in power above all else, potentially prompting him to enact domestically unpopular economic “reforms” despite the outcry that will inevitably result. If MBS’ past decisions are any indication, he would use force to crush any outcry. If this takes place, we can expect many more to suffer a fate similar to Khashoggi’s, as Saudi Arabia would become an even more inhospitable place for dissidents.