MbS rookie or reformer
October 22-25, 2018 -- The Jamal Khashoggi affair has battered the international reputation of 33-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS), who has projected himself as a single-minded reformer.
The meteoric rise of Saudi Arabia’s MbS began when King Salman made him defence minister in January 2015 and delegated most of the day-to-day running of the country to his son.
He wasted no time in making his mark. Within weeks he launched a Saudi-led war against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, pushing the Arab world’s most impoverished country to the brink of famine.
In November 2017, he locked up more than 20 of the country’s wealthiest princes in Riyadh’s luxury Ritz-Carlton hotel, releasing them only when they handed over assets worth billions and convinced him of their loyalty.
He summoned Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri to Riyadh where he was held and forced to announce his resignation on Saudi TV. It was only after intense international pressure that Hariri was allowed to return to Beirut where he immediately rescinded his resignation.
His detractors accuse MbS of being impetuous. Some are concerned that these impulsive traits led to the death of Jamal Khashoggi.
It has emerged that the crown prince had tasked Major General Ahmed al-Assiri, the deputy chief of Saudi intelligence, to create a “tiger team” to conduct covert special operations and bring Saudi dissidents, including Khashoggi, back home.
On Sunday, the Saudi Press Agency reported that both King Salman and Prince Mohammed had called Khashoggi’s son, Salah, to express condolences.