Saudi Arabia's "strong man", Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (known as MBS), has been fighting for 16 months to turn the country's absolute monarchy into a one-man government and felt in the process that there is no restrictions to fulfill this impulse of power. . However, this cult of personality at home along with the image of a "reformer" abroad that MBS meticulously cultivated for almost two years has now reached a turning point. Since the assassination of Saudi commentator Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, MBS has become a responsibility for the Saudi monarchy. His accumulation of power is returning to torment him to the extent that no one believes that Khashoggi's murder could have been sanctioned without the approval of MBS.
Saudi King Salman has been preparing his son since 2009 when, as governor of Riyadh, he appointed him special adviser. Salman, who in the past often found himself playing a role of reconciliation among the approximately 4,000 ambitious princes of al-Saoud, knew more than anyone that his son would need to consolidate the power to succeed him. First, King Salman simplified the bureaucracy by eliminating the sub-cabinets that formerly allowed princes to hold key portfolios. Between January 2015 and May 2017, Salman built his government on two pillars of power: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef as Minister of the Interior and President of the Council for Political and Security Affairs, and MBS as Minister of Defense and President of the Council of Economic and Development Affairs. . Tensions increased between the two as MBS became more assertive, as Bin Nayef was not ready to hand over power to a much younger prince.
CLOCK: The Trump administration continues to mock Khashoggi's murder (2:19)
The monarchy of Al-Saud has always maintained a balance of power between the influential princes, however, King Salman and MBS have altered this hierarchy that served the stability of the political system for decades, despite its shortcomings and lack of transparency. MBS became the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia because it disabled the two main controls of its power by eliminating its rivals in establishing the monarchy and silencing US restrictions on its policies.
The United States has typically handled the rivalry between the Saudi princes and restricted, when necessary, any Saudi policy that could undermine the interests of the United States. The open channel between MBS and President Donald Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has allowed MBS to elude the establishment in Washington that preferred bin Nayif and his aggressive approach to counterterrorism. This open channel with the White House allowed MBS to eliminate bin Nayif in June 2017 before rounding out the traditional Saudi establishment at the Ritz Carlton hotel last November and arresting Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
These bold political actions would not have happened if the White House were not lenient or even permissive. The young Saudi prince was testing the limits and gradually presumed that if he has Trump's support, nothing can stop him. The establishment in Washington believes that Kushner and MBS are avoiding the traditional routes of policymaking in the US. UU., And the ruling Saudi family sees Trump as favoring a younger prince and ignoring the delicate balance of the house of Al-Saud. These dynamics are damaging long-term relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia. The Saudi monarchy should have long-term contingency plans if Trump is thrown out of office in the presidential elections in two years, as the next president will likely be less lenient with Saudi policies.
In addition, the concern in the USA. UU And further on, if MBS managed to do all these movements in his early thirties, what could happen if he becomes king? Who would keep his power under control? Customizing the Saudi government is unprecedented and carries risks to the monarchy, as Khashoggi's murder made it very clear.
The two main power players that enabled MBS, King Salman and President Trump, continue to recover, but the Saudi crown prince has become increasingly isolated in recent weeks. MBS created a culture of fear among its rivals, and if its control over power does not weaken or Khashoggi's assassination passes without accountability, this fear will dominate Saudi politics for decades to come. Without a doubt, MBS will defend itself, has too many enemies to leave power and potentially face a backlash.
CLOCK: Erdogan of Turkey: Khashoggi killing a & # 39; political murder & # 39; (2:08)
King Salman is facing a dilemma, if not a crucial moment in his monarchy. Its key advisors are asserting their power at least in the management of Khashoggi's portfolio. However, Salman, if he continues to pull the strings, shows no signs of abandoning his son's ambitions. The Saudi king expelled key MBS advisers to free his son from any criminal or political responsibility, while at the same time assigning him the task of reforming the intelligence agency following Khashoggi's assassination. He will keep his son until he feels that the Salman dynasty is in danger under Western pressure, which could lead him to select his other son Khaled as crown prince, as Le Figaro has done. reported. However, even with Prince Khaled as the next king, the MBS could retain influence in the bureaucracy, which requires a crown prince from outside the Salman branch to avoid his dominance of Saudi politics.
What keeps MBS politically secure is that his father is still alive. If King Salman died tomorrow, the political knives would go against MBS at al-Saud's house and abroad. But even if MBS manages to survive this political earthquake and maintain control of all these portfolios, it will always be associated with the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi. It will be a stain that will be very difficult to eliminate from your political reputation.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.