• 23 May, 2024
Foreign Affairs, Geopolitics & National Security

What is MBS Upto?

Rajat Upadhyay
Mon, 20 Mar 2023   |  Reading Time: 3 minutes

If there’s one country that has really surprised the world with its diplomatic maneuvers, it is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia(KSA). The undeclared declared leader of the Islamic world, KSA has appeared close to Russia than ever before, especially after Joe Biden assumed office.

Biden’s election rhetoric about Jamal Khashoggi, the Human rights crisis in Yemen and the Saudi involvement there, and the Biden administration’s temporary ban on sales of Arms and ammunition to KSA have spooked the now-not-so-new Saudi crown prince Mohd. bin Salman(MBS).

Saudi Arabia in the recent past has been looked upon as a stooge of the United States with American bases operating on its oil-rich soil ensuring the safety of the royals and stability in Riyadh. The Saudis have never looked like going against Uncle Sam after the infamous assassination of King Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. In return, America has ensured Saudi’s dominance in International Oil Trade and its undisputed position as the leader of the Muslim ummah for the past 3 decades. But things started to go downhill after two major events. First, the elevation of MBS to the mighty position of the crown prince, and Second, the election of Donald Trump.

MBS is known to the world as a man who gets things done by any means necessary, be it the undeclared trade war against the tiny super-rich kingdom of Qatar, his stride against the Muslim Brotherhood, Saudi’s aggressive stance in the Yemen civil war and last but not the least the infamous cold-blooded murder of Jamal Khashoggi’s in turkey. All these events have shaped him as a ruthless leader who is yet to be unleashed on a unipolar world controlled by the oval office.

Donald Trump, for what a character he was hasn’t left a legacy he can be proud about. As if his actions when he was the president weren’t enough, the 6th of January has just added to Trump’s Hall of Fame. Though not impeached by congress, Trump surely won’t be remembered as a president whose actions spoke louder than words. Meanwhile, Trump maintained a cordial bond with the Saudis. His willingness to overlook the human rights concerns brought the Al-Saud close to America. A classical American Businessman, Trump even cleared the sale of precision-guided ammunition to Saudi, though Biden put a temporary ban on the same owing to Saudi’s role in the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. Biden a democrat has stressed on human rights and the issues important to the left. And it so happens that the Saudis under MBS don’t happen to like the new normal under Biden. Reciprocating the actions, the KSA signed an agreement with Russia about cutting down oil production when the US wanted it the most. Joining hands with the Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop the American Shale from dominating the international market, Saudi has made it quite clear that it is no more just a rich oil-producing orthodox state in the distant middle east but an important player in the world politics now.

Adding more to the Saudis’ estranged stance was a recent pact brokered by China between the kingdom and their supposed arch-rivals in the east, Iran. After the recent Hijab protests in Iran, Tehran had to face a lot of criticism from the international community. Such an unprecedented pact about resetting the ties between the two polar ends of the Islamic world has sent a strong message to KSA’s western allies for sure.

When under the Trump administration, the historic Abraham accords were signed, it looked as if the distance Israel and the Middle East would come closer, but Saudis don’t seem to be changing their minds and getting along with their Jewish neighbors (Israel) in the Middle East ,who also happen to be America’s all-weather friend.

Saudi Arabia has been easing restrictions on women, not recognizing the new Afghan emirate under the old Taliban, liberalizing on the domestic front, and trying to erase the orthodox stereotypical image of the kingdom which is a nation with a lot of oil controlled by a crazy rich king who has got a lot of kids. While siding with the Kremlin and China on important world issues has really forced the experts and analysts back to the drawing board to understand what really is MBS up to.


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Kalidan Singh

Mar 27, 2023
I am sure MBS is up to more than I know. But here he is what he is up to which helps India. He is reforming Islam, he is taking away the power of Wahabis, reducing its super-aggressive 'you should change what you do because it offends me' routine that has alienated the whole world (but super tolerated and supported in Indians, who are largely fearful of the descendants (real or imaginary) of the former invaders who have stayed behind to usher in a Sharia state in India, and devoted to worship of Pakistan and Jinnah - flags and photos of whom are proudly displayed all across India). The banning of loudspeakers by MBS is a great idea; they should be banned in India as well (for ALL religions). The take over of public roads and public facilities for celebration of festivals should similarly be banned for ALL religions. We could take a page from MBS as we take baby steps toward modernity.

Bhawinee Todi

Mar 26, 2023
The article was really informative and engaging. Your views are noted. Thank you Rajat.

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