Mohammad bin Salman
Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (Arabic: محمد بن سلمان بن عبدالعزيز آل سعود; born 31 August 1985[a]), also known as MBS, is the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, also serving as First Deputy Prime Minister, President of the Council for Economic and Development Affairs and Minister of Defense—the world's youngest office holder at the time. He has been described as the power behind the throne of his father, King Salman. He was appointed Crown Prince in June 2017 following his father's decision to remove Muhammad bin Nayef from all positions, making Mohammad bin Salman heir apparent to the throne. He has been accused of risking instability in the Middle East through his detention of human rights activists, intervention in Yemen, escalation of Saudi's diplomatic crisis with Qatar and the start of the diplomatic crisis with Lebanon, as well as his arrests of members of the Saudi royal family in November 2017. His proposed Saudi 2030 vision includes economic, social and religious changes, and plans to list shares of the coveted, state-owned oil company Aramco.
|Mohammad bin Salman|
|Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia
Defense Minister of Saudi Arabia
Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud
|Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia|
|Reign||21 June 2017 – present|
|Predecessor||Muhammad bin Nayef|
31 August 1985 |
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
|Spouse||Sara bint Mashoor bin Abdulaziz Al Saud|
|House||House of Saud|
|Mother||Fahda bint Falah bin Sultan bin Hathleen al-Ajmi|
Despite promised reforms, the arrests and persecutions rate of human rights activists have risen under Mohammad bin Salman. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch continue to criticize the Saudi government for its violations of human rights.
Early life and educationEdit
Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud was born on 31 August 1985[a] in Riyadh.[note 1] He is the son of King Salman from his third spouse, Fahda bint Falah bin Sultan bin Hathleen. She is the granddaughter of Rakan bin Hithalayn, who was the head of the Al Ajman tribe.
Prince Mohammad bin Salman is the eldest of his full siblings, Turki bin Salman, former chairman of the Saudi Research and Marketing Group, and Khalid bin Salman. Prince Mohammad holds a bachelor's degree in law from King Saud University, and has been called a "lawyer by training".
After graduating from college, Mohammad bin Salman spent several years in the private sector before becoming personal aide to his father. He worked as a consultant for the Experts Commission, working for the Saudi Cabinet.
On 15 December 2009, at the age of 24, Mohammad bin Salman entered politics as a special advisor to his father when the latter was the governor of Riyadh Province. At this time, Mohammad bin Salman began to rise from one position to another such as secretary-general of the Riyadh Competitive Council, special advisor to the chairman of the board for the King Abdulaziz Foundation for Research and Archives, and a member of the board of trustees for Albir Society in the Riyadh region.
In October 2011, Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz died, and the current King Salman began his ascent to power by becoming second deputy prime minister and defense minister in November 2011 and making Mohammad bin Salman his private advisor.
Chief of the CourtEdit
In June 2012, Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz Al Saud died and Prince Muhammad bin Salman moved up into the number two position in the hierarchy, as his father became the new crown prince and first deputy prime minister. He soon began remaking the court in his own image. On 2 March 2013, the chief of the Crown Prince court Prince Saud bin Nayef was appointed governor of the Eastern Province and Prince Mohammad bin Salman succeeded him in the post. He was also given the rank of minister. On 25 April 2014 Prince Mohammad was appointed state minister.
Defense Minister and Deputy Crown PrinceEdit
On 23 January 2015, King Abdullah died, Salman took the throne and Prince Mohammad bin Salman was appointed Minister of Defense. He was also named as the Secretary General of the Royal Court on the same date. In addition he retained his post as the Minister of the State.
In Yemen, the political unrest (which began escalating in 2011) rapidly became a major issue for the newly appointed Minister of Defense, with rebel Houthis taking control of northern Yemen in late 2014, followed by President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi and his cabinet’s resignation. Mohammad bin Salman’s first move as minister was to mobilize a pan-GCC coalition to intervene following a series of suicide bombings in Sanaa via air strikes against Houthis, and impose a naval blockade. In March 2015, Saudi Arabia began leading a coalition of countries allied against the Houthi rebels. According to The New York Times, "Although all agreed that the Kingdom had to respond when the Houthis seized the Yemeni capital and forced the government into exile, Prince Mohammad bin Salman took the lead, launching the war in March 2015 without full coordination across the security services." Prince Mohammed bin Salman maintained restrictive coordination across security services and drove operations from the Maldives. Saudi National Guard Minister Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah, who was out of the country, was not in the loop of the operations, and US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter officially declared having trouble reaching him for days after the first strikes." While Prince Mohammad bin Salman sold the war as a quick win on Houthi rebels in Yemen and a way to put President Hadi back in power, however, it became a long war of attrition.
Regarding his role in the military intervention, Prince Mohammad bin Salman gave his first on-the-record interview on 4 January 2016 to The Economist, which had called him the architect of the war in Yemen. Denying the title, he explained the mechanism of the decision-making institutions actually holding stakes in the intervention, including the council of security and political affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs from the Saudi side. He added that the Houthis usurped power in the Yemeni capital Sana’a before he served as Minister of Defense.
Mohammad bin Salman was appointed Crown Prince on 21 June 2017, following his father's decision to depose Muhammad bin Nayef, making him heir apparent to the throne. The change of succession had been predicted in December 2015 by an unusually blunt and public memo published by the German Federal Intelligence Service, which was subsequently rebuked by the German government.
On the day he became Crown Prince, U.S. President Donald Trump called Mohammad bin Salman to "congratulate him on his recent elevation". Trump and the new crown prince pledged "close cooperation" on security and economic issues, according to the White House, and the two leaders also discussed the need to cut off support for terrorism, the recent diplomatic dispute with Qatar, and the push to secure peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Mohammad bin Salman told the Washington Post in April 2017 that without America's cultural influence on Saudi Arabia, "we would have ended up like North Korea."
Persecution of human rights activistsEdit
Despite promised reforms, the arrests and persecution of activists has risen under Mohammad bin Salman. According to the Gulf Centre for Human Rights: "The human rights situation in Saudi Arabia has markedly deteriorated and there has been a renewed crackdown against human rights defenders, since the accession of Mohammad bin Salman as Crown Prince in June 2017. The environment for human rights defenders has become increasingly dangerous and they face targeting by authorities on a daily basis."
The recent crackdown on human right activists includes the academic and novelist Dr. Mustafa al-Hassan , Abdullah al-Malki was arrested from his home and his whereabouts remain unknown. Essam al-Zamel, an activist and critic of economic reform. The three were all arrested on day in 12 September 2017. Two prominent Saudi Arabian human rights defenders and founding members of ACPRA, Abdulaziz al-Shubaily and Issa al-Hamid, were arrested on 16 September 2017. Issa al-Hamid was charged with "communicating with international organisations in order to harm the image of the state." he was sentenced to 11 years in prison on appeal, and a nine years of travel ban after he served his sentence. Following an appeal, an additional two years were added to his prison sentence, and he was fined USD$26,665.
On 10 November 2017, the Specialised Criminal Court (SCC) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia sentenced the Internet activist Naima Al-Matrood to six years in jail followed by six years of travel ban after her sentence is served.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch continue to criticize the Saudi government for its violations of human rights. Saudi activists and dissidents currently serving long prison terms based solely on their peaceful activism include Waleed Abulkhair, Mohammed al-Qahtani, Fadhil al-Manasif, Sulaiman al-Rashoodi, Abdulkareem al-Khodr, Fowzan al-Harbi, Raif Badawi, Saleh al-Ashwan, Abdullah al-Hamid, Alaa Brinji, and Nadhir al-Majed. Activists Issa al-Nukheifi and Essam Koshak are currently on trial. In late July, 2017 a Saudi appeals court upheld an eight-year prison sentence against Abdulaziz al-Shubaily. Mohammed al-Oteibi and Abdullah Attawi are still on trial for forming a human rights organization in 2013.
Executing peaceful protestersEdit
Among those executed in 2016 were Ali Sa'eed al-Ribh, whose trial judgment indicates that he was under 18 at the time of some of the crimes for which he was sentenced to death. As a state party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Saudi Arabia is legally obliged to ensure that no one under 18 at the time of a crime is sentenced to death or to life in prison without the possibility of release.
Ali al-Nimr, Abdullah al-Zaher and Dawood al-Marhoon, were arrested individually in 2012 aged 17, 16 and 17 respectively are at risk of being executed at any time. On 10 July, 2017 Abdulkareem al-Hawaj had his death sentence upheld on appeal. He was found guilty of crimes committed when he was 16. The four young men were convicted of security-related offences after taking part in anti-government protests.
Use of counterterrorism laws to prosecute human rights activistsEdit
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Counter Terrorism, Ben Emmerson, criticized Saudi for violating human rights in the name of fighting terrorism during his visit to Saudi Arabia from 30 April to 4 May 2017. In his report, Saudi uses its terrorism tribunal and counterterrorism law to unjustly prosecute human rights defenders, writers, and peaceful critics. The report states: "the Special Rapporteur would like to share some observations, concerns and recommendations with regard to the unacceptably broad definition of terrorism, and the use of the 2014 counter-terrorism law and other national security provisions against human rights defenders, writers, bloggers, journalists and other peaceful critics. He would also like to raise the continuing problems relating to the prevention of torture of terrorist suspects during investigation; the reported use of confessions obtained by duress during interrogation, the use of the death penalty following proceedings in which there are reported due process shortcomings".
Political and economic changesEdit
On 29 January 2015, Prince Mohammad was named the chair of the newly established Council for Economic and Development Affairs, replacing the disbanded Supreme Economic Commission. In April 2015, Prince Mohammad bin Salman was given control over Saudi Aramco by royal decree following his appointment as deputy crown prince.
Prince Mohammad bin Salman took the leadership in the restructuring of Saudi Arabia's economy, which he officially announced in April 2016 when he introduced Vision 2030, the country's strategic orientation for the next 15 years. Vision 2030 plans to reform Saudi's economy towards a more diversified and privatized structure. It details goals and measures in various fields, from developing non-oil revenues and privatization of the economy to e-government and sustainable development.
At the inaugural Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh in October 2017, bin Salman announced plans for the creation of Neom, a $500 billion economic zone to cover an area of 26,000 square kilometres on Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coast, extending into Jordan and Egypt. Neom aims to attract investment in sectors including renewable energy, biotechnology, robotics and advanced manufacturing. The announcement followed plans to develop a 34,000 square kilometre area across a lagoon of 50 islands on Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coastline into a luxury tourism destination with laws on a par with international standards. In a further effort to boost the tourism industry, in November 2017 it was announced that Saudi Arabia would start issuing tourist visas for foreigners, beginning in 2018.
Prince Mohammad bin Salman's biggest bet was his plan to restore the Saudi kingdom's dominance in global oil markets by driving the new competition into bankruptcy, by keeping the oil price low enough for a long enough period. Saudi Arabia persuaded OPEC to do the same. A few small players went bankrupt, but American frackers only shut down their less-profitable operations temporarily, and waited for oil prices to go up again. Saudi Arabia, which had been spending $100 billion a year to keep services and subsidies going, had to admit defeat in November 2016. It then cut production significantly and asked its OPEC partners to do the same.
Prince bin Salman has successfully lobbied for regulations restricting the powers of the religious police. Prince bin Salman established an entertainment authority that has hosted comedy shows, pro wrestling events, and monster truck rallies. In an interview with al Arabiya he also shared his idea for "Green cards" for non-Saudi foreigners.
In April 2017, bin Salman announced a project to build one of the world’s largest cultural, sports and entertainment cities in Al Qidiya, southwest of Riyadh. The 334 square kilometre city will include a safari and a Six Flags theme park.
Further cultural developments followed in December that year with the Saudi Arabia’s first public concert by a female singer, and in January 2018 a sports stadium in Jeddah became the first in the Kingdom to admit women. In the same month it was announced that Saudi Arabia would reopen public cinemas after a ban of 35 years, with plans to have more than 2,000 screens running by 2030.
The first measures undertaken in April 2016 included new taxes and cuts in subsidies, a diversification plan, the creation of a $2 trillion Saudi sovereign wealth fund, and a series of strategic economic reforms called the National Transformation Programme. Prince bin Salman plans to raise capital for the sovereign wealth fund by selling off shares of Saudi Aramco, the state-owned petroleum and natural gas company, with the capital to be re-invested in other sectors such as to implement the diversification plans. However, as of October 2017, the plan for Aramco’s IPO listing has been labeled "a mess" by The Economist.
Prince Mohammad bin Salman slashed the state budget, freezing government contracts and reducing the pay of civil employees as part of drastic austerity measures. Within hours of doing so, he bought the Serene.
In October 2017, he said the ultra-conservative Saudi state had been "not normal" for the past 30 years, blaming rigid doctrines that have governed society in a reaction to the Iranian Revolution, which successive leaders "didn’t know how to deal with". According to him, Saudi Arabia is "returning to what we were before—a country of moderate Islam that is open to all religions and to the world". In essence, he was telling the country's clerics that the deal the royal family struck with them after the 1979 siege of the Grand Mosque in Mecca is being renegotiated. Building an industrial culture was not compatible with Wahhabism. The Wahhabis were committed to fixed social and gender relationships. These were consistent with an economy built on oil sales, but industrialization requires a dynamic culture with social relations constantly shifting.
According to Politico, MbS wants to pre-empt a repetition of the downfall of the earlier Saudi states due to familial infighting, internal malaise, external frailty and failure to modernize. Mindful of this history, instead of waiting for today’s Saudi state to weaken and fall, MBS is trying to save the country before it collapses.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali claims that "if M.B.S. succeeds in his modernization efforts, Saudis will benefit from new opportunities and freedoms, and the world will benefit from curtailing the Wahhabi radicalization agenda. A decade from now, the kingdom could look more like the United Arab Emirates, its prosperous and relatively forward-looking neighbor."
In May 2017, Mohammad bin Salman publicly warned "I confirm to you, no one will survive in a corruption case—whoever he is, even if he’s a prince or a minister". On 4 November 2017, the Saudi press announced the arrest of the Saudi prince and billionaire Al-Waleed bin Talal, a frequent English-language news commentator and a major shareholder in Citi, News Corp and Twitter, as well as over 40 princes and government ministers at the behest of the Crown Prince on corruption and money laundering charges.
Others arrested or fired in the purge included Mutaib bin Abdullah, head of the Saudi Arabian National Guard, Adel Fakeih, the Minister of Economy and Planning, and the Commander of the Saudi Naval Forces, Admiral Abdullah bin Sultan bin Mohammed Al-Sultan.
Some analysts saw the arrests as part of a power grab on the part of Salman. The New York Times wrote:
|“||The sweeping campaign of arrests appears to be the latest move to consolidate the power of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the favorite son and top adviser of King Salman. The king had decreed the creation of a powerful new anticorruption committee, headed by the crown prince, only hours before the committee ordered the arrests.||”|
Writing for the Huffington Post, University of Delaware professor of Islam and Global Affairs, Muqtedar Khan, speculated as to whether the removal of Talal, a critic of Donald Trump, amounted to a coup. BBC correspondent Frank Gardner was quoted as saying that "Prince Mohammed is moving to consolidate his growing power while spearheading a reform programme". Yet "[i]t is not clear what those detained are suspected of."
Other analysts see the purge as part of a move towards reform. Steven Mufson of the Washington Post argues that Crown Prince Mohammed “knows that only if he can place the royal family under the law, and not above as it was in the past, can he ask the whole country to change their attitudes relative to taxes [and] subsidies.” An analysis from the CBC claimed that "the clampdown against corruption resonates with ordinary Saudis who feel that the state has been asking them to accept belt tightening while, at the same time, they see corruption and the power elite accumulating more wealth". Bin Salman's ambitious reform agenda is widely popular with Saudi Arabia's burgeoning youth population but faces resistance from some of the old guard more comfortable with the kingdom's traditions of incremental change and rule by consensus. According to a former British ambassador to Riyadh, Bin Salman "is the first prince in modern Saudi history whose constituency has not been within the royal family, it’s outside it. It’s been young Saudis, particularly younger Saudi men in the street".
Robert Jordan, former US ambassador to Saudi Arabia, said that "Certainly Saudi Arabia has had a corruption problem for many years. I think the population, especially, has been very unhappy with princes coming in and grabbing business deals, with public funds going to flood control projects that never seem to get built... I would also say it's a classical power grab move sometimes to arrest your rivals, your potential rivals under the pretext of corruption".
A Eurasia Group director states that "Mohammed bin Salman is in effect taking steps to separate the Al Saud family from the state...The process of destroying old elite networks that monopolized access to profitable contracts bodes well for the business environment."[unreliable source?]
US President Trump expressed support for the move, tweeting "I have great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, they know exactly what they are doing....Some of those they are harshly treating have been “milking” their country for years!" French President Macron, who visited Riyadh days after the purge, when asked about the purge "This is not the role of a president, and similarly I would not expect a leader of a foreign country to come and infringe on domestic matters," Macron said.
Mohammad bin Salman established himself as the chairman of the Prince Mohammad bin Salman Foundation, otherwise known as MiSK, which puts in place activities empowering and enabling the younger generation, in line with Vision 2030’s goals of a more developed nation. The foundation was a partner of the 9th UNESCO Youth Forum for Change in 2015. In 2017, the with Vision 2030 goals aligned new city, Neom was announced.
The foundation focuses on the country's youth and provides different means of fostering talent, creative potential, and innovation in a healthy environment that offers opportunities in arts and sciences. The foundation pursues these goals by establishing programs and partnering with local and global organizations. It intends to develop intellectual capability in youth, as well as unlock the potential of all Saudi people. Saudi journalists traveling with Prince Mohammed on foreign delegations have been paid up to $100,000 in cash.
In late 2015, Prince Mohammad attended a meeting between King Salman and U.S. President Barack Obama, where the prince broke protocol to deliver a monologue criticizing U.S. foreign policy. In addition, when Prince bin Salman announced an anti-terrorist military alliance of Islamic countries in December 2015, some of the countries involved said they had not been consulted.
On 10 January 2016, The Independent reported that "the BND, the German intelligence agency, portrayed...Saudi defence minister and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman...as a political gambler who is destabilising the Arab world through proxy wars in Yemen and Syria." German officials reacted to the BND’s memo, saying the published statement "is not the position of the federal government".
During the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen, thousands of civilians were reportedly killed in a major bombing campaign, prompting accusations of war crimes in the intervention. So far, the war has already cost the kingdom tens of billions of dollars and destroyed much of Yemen's infrastructure but failed to dislodge the Shiite Houthi rebels and their allies from the Yemeni capital.
Mohammad bin Salman has been criticised for his purchase of a French château and luxury yacht, while at the same time "leading a sweeping crackdown on corruption and self-enrichment by the Saudi elite" and demanding fiscal austerity within Saudi Arabia.
Mohammad bin Salman has a princely lifestyle. In 2015, he purchased the Italian-built and Bermuda-registered yacht Serene from Russian vodka tycoon Yuri Shefler for €500 million. In 2017 he bought the Château Louis XIV located near Versailles in France for $301,000,000 ($304 million as of 2017).
Mohammad has travelled extensively around the world, meeting with politicians, business leaders and celebrities. In June 2016, he travelled to Silicon Valley and met key people in the US high tech industry, including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
Mohammad bin Salman married Princess Sarah bint Mashhoor bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in 2008. They have four children.
|Ancestors of Mohammad bin Salman|
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud.|
- Saudi Deputy Crown Prince: The War Will Be Waged in Iran, Not Saudi Arabia; No to Direct Dialogue with Iran, MEMRI TV, 2017
- Saudi King’s Son Plotted Effort to Oust His Rival New York Times
Prince Muhammad bin Nayef
|First Deputy Prime Minister
21 June 2017 – present
Prince Muhammad bin Nayef
|Second Deputy Prime Minister
29 April 2015 – 21 June 2017
Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud
|Minister of Defence
23 January 2015 – present
|Chief of the Royal Court
23 January 2015 – present
|Saudi Arabian royalty|
Prince Muhammad bin Nayef
|Deputy Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia
29 April 2015 – 21 June 2017
Prince Muhammad bin Nayef
|Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia
21 June 2017 – present