Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is many things. He’s young; at 32-years-old, he’s younger than any coach in college football. He’s modern; it was his decision to allow women to drive. He’s ruthless; the corruption purge that took down some of the most powerful men in the country targeted his potential rivals. Now, he’s on the verge of being King of Saudi Arabia.
DailyMail reported that King Salman intends to step aside and name MBS, as Prince Mohammed is often called, as the new king. The U.K. news organization was only able to cite a single anonymous source, so this is far from verified. Nevertheless, it makes sense in light of recent events. Here’s the report:
The King of Saudi Arabia plans to step down and announce his son as his successor next week, a source close to the country’s royal family has exclusively told DailyMail.com.
The move is seen as the final step in 32-year-old Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s power grab, which began earlier this month with the arrests of more than 40 princes and government ministers in a corruption probe.
The source said King Salman will continue only as a ceremonial figurehead, handing over official leadership of the country to his son – often referred to as MBS.
If this is true, it’s huge news that will have sudden implications across the region and around the world. The dynamics that keep the dysfunctional Middle East from falling apart will change as the new king will undoubtedly push forward with plans to destabilize Lebanon and hinder Iran. Meanwhile, he’ll be working with Israel to accomplish their mutual goals.
Things may start getting even more tense than normal in the tensest region on earth.
Cooperation with Israel
MBS has signaled the desire to cooperate with Israel in their quest to weaken Iran and reduce its influence across the Middle East. Both nations believe Iran supplies their enemies. Both fear the eventuality of a nuclear-armed Iran. There may be no long-term love lost between Saudi Arabia and Israel, but in their current situation it makes sense for them to work together.
Israel seems to agree:
“MBS is convinced that he has to hit Iran and Hezbollah…MBS’s plan is to start the fire in Lebanon, but he’s hoping to count on Israeli military backing. He has already promised Israel billions of dollars in direct financial aid if they agree,” claimed the source.
“MBS can not confront Hezbollah in Lebanon without Israel. Plan B is to fight Hezbollah in Syria,’ added the source.
The appetite for cooperation between two of America’s closest allies in the Middle East has grown in recent years as their security interests have dovetailed. Both Israel and Saudi Arabia view Iran’s growing influence in the region as an existential threat and want to squash militant Islamist groups like ISIS and Iran’s main proxy, Hezbollah.
A U.S. official who witnessed a Saudi and Israeli official hold a closed-door meeting together recently said such informal meetings have been taking place for “at least five years.”
In his first-ever interview with an Arabic-language newspaper, Lieutenant General Gadi Eisenkot, chief of staff of the Israeli military, said he viewed the majority-Jewish state and ultraconservative Sunni Muslim kingdom as natural allies due to their mutual enmity for revolutionary Shiite Muslim Iran. Israel has labeled Iran an existential threat, and Tehran’s growing influence across the Middle East and beyond has also outpaced Saudi Arabia’s own efforts to dominate the region, establishing an informal axis between the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia that’s gone largely unspoken until now.
Where the U.S. fits in
President Trump has been very clear with his support for MBS. With Trump’s appreciation of Israel as an ally and his distrust of Iran, a Saudi-Israeli joint action against Hezbollah and possibly Iran is the type of effort the United States could wholeheartedly support.
That’s a problem.
On the other side supporting Iran, Syria, and by proxy Lebanon is Russia. They would adamantly oppose any actions against their friends in the Middle East and would likely be the first outside nation to intervene if America’s allies preemptively attacked Russia’s. If that happens, the U.S. would have no choice but to intervene as well, propelling us closer to direct conflict with Russia.
In other words, we could be drawn into a regional conflict or even a full-blown war because of commitments to our two best allies in the Middle East.
MBS is an ally today, but America and Israel should be very wary of him. His actions lend to the notion that he will manipulate anyone, even his allies, to do his bidding whether they realize it or not.