Muhammad bin Salman

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"How do you have a dialogue with a regime (Iran) built on an extremist ideology … which [says] they must control the land of Muslims and spread their Twelver Jaafari sect in the Muslim world?"

“There is no doubt that the situation in Syria is very complicated. There’s no doubt that former American President Barack Obama wasted many significant opportunities which he could have seized to achieve great change in Syria. Syria has today become an international conflict. Russia is present there as a superpower. A superpower like the US is present. All five superpowers are present there and any friction between these superpowers may create a crisis that’s much bigger than the Middle East crisis. The situation is very complicated.”

“…the Arab spring was the real test that put to the test the authoritative form of government and non-authoritative form of government, and the regime that represents its people versus the regime that does not represent its people. Any regime that did not represent its people collapsed in the Arab spring, and the other regimes we saw what happened to them.”

You are Muhammad bin Salman, the son of King Salman. In June 2017, you were appointed as Crown Prince by your father. As the crown prince, you hold a position of great power and esteem. You are second in line for the throne, and responsible for all the functions of government that King Salman might not have time for. Your power is near absolute, second only to the King himself, and it is widely expected that you will become King very soon.

Early Life and Background

You were born in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in 1985. Your earliest official entry into politics was in 2009, when you were appointed special assistant to your father, who was the Governor of Riyadh Province. However, it must be said that you are a member of the Saudi royal family, and that whatever your talents and virtues are, your position owes itself completely to the fact that your father is one of the remaining living sons of the founder of modern Saudi Arabia, Ibn Saud. As a young man, your fortunes rose along with those of your father. In late 2011, for example, your father became Second Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister, and you became the Private Advisor to the Second Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister. When your father became Crown Prince, you were appointed Chief of the Crown Prince’s court and, when King Abdullah died in January 2015 and your father ascended to the throne, you became the world’s youngest Minister of Defense, as well as Secretary General of the Royal Court. Though many of your relatives were upset by the fact that so much power was accruing to you, the King had spoken and that was that. Still, at the start of King Salman’s tenure, the position of Crown Prince belonged to your Uncle, Muhammad bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. His father, Nayef Bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, was an important Saudi prince who held the office of Crown Prince until his death in 2012, making his son the first grandson of Ibn Saud to be appointed Crown Prince.

Your power continued to expand, as you took the helm of the state oil company, giving you a visible role in the planning for Saudi Arabia’s “post-oil” economic transformation as embedded in the Saudi Vision 2030 plan. You were also charged with strengthening connections with world powers, and your travels took you to China, Russia (to coordinate policies regarding Syria, even though the Syrian policies of the two nations aren’t aligned), and the United States to meet with the heads of state.

From your position as Defense Minister you were at the forefront of some dramatic actions, starting in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia entered the Yemeni conflict in 2015 at the head of a multi-country operation intended to squelch an uprising by Shi’a-affiliated separatists supported by Iran. This intervention was not an unprovoked military exercise. Rather, it began after the request of the Yemeni President Abd Rabbah Mansur Hadi. The objective of your operation was to keep the elected President in power. You feared that these insurgents, belonging to Yemen’s Houthi movement (a Shi’a–led political group friendly with Iran) would be able to create their own Shi'a government on the borders of Saudi Arabia, something you do not want to see happen. While not wholly successful, your military intervention did bear some fruit, and it has provided Saudi Arabia with a chance to be seen as a leader of the Arab Nations. While many nations participated in the operation, it was Saudi Arabia who was given full command of the combined forces. This is seen as a vote of confidence, by the Arab world, in Saudi Arabia's skill.

However, the war has dragged on for a long time with little apparent progress, along with growing fears of a humanitarian disaster in Yemen. In the meantime, tensions with the other outside “proxy,” Iran, have only grown. You have shown no interest in supporting any kind of power-sharing relationship in Yemen, and the death toll in Yemen continues to rise. Western nations, including the United States, have continued to support this war, and President Trump doesn’t seem at all likely to back off of that support, but many observers wonder whether the war will ever end, and what the long-term cost to your nation will be, both in terms of economics and prestige.

In 2017, observers watched with dismay as tensions dramatically escalated with your eastern neighbor and long-time ally, Qatar. These tensions escalated in the wake of a visit to Saudi Arabia by the American President Donald Trump, who left Saudi Arabia having agreed to sell the Saudis as much as $110 billion dollars worth of weapons. This sale served multiple functions. In concrete terms, the weapons will replenish the Saudi army in Yemen. The symbolic importance of the sale was every bit as important, though. During the Obama Administration, American relations with the Saudis cooled a bit, as President Obama—to cite but one example--was reluctant to fully embrace the authoritarian regime in Egypt that overthrew an elected Islamist President. The Saudis felt that President Obama had proven that he couldn’t truly be trusted to support them and distanced themselves while, from their side, the Americans were wary of Saudi support for extremist elements in Syria, rumored to possibly include ISIS. When President Trump’s first overseas trip as President was to Saudi Arabia, he sent a clear signal that the Saudi-American strategic relationship was fully back.

This support ennobled you and the King to take the bold step of announcing an economic blockade of energy-rich Qatar in June 2017 (which was joined by Egypt, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates), accusing it of supporting extremism. In truth, your nation has regarded Qatar as a satellite since before it became an independent nation in 1971, and the Saudis have grown increasingly disquiet about Qatar’s displays of independence, which include offering support to Hamas, maintaining cordial relations with Iran, supporting the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and, perhaps most gratingly to your nation, giving birth to Al Jazeera, the Middle East’s most prominent news network, and one that has been frequently critical of Saudi policies. Now, even though the Saudis and Qataris have collaborated in many ways—in terms of their Syrian policy, for example—it hasn’t been enough to satisfy your government. By all outward appearances, Qatar seems to want to assert itself regionally while maintaining friendships with everyone, but you want to see Iran isolated, and you’re playing hardball. Iran (which jointly owns the world’s largest natural gas field with Qatar) offered Qatar food aid immediately, as did Morocco, and Turkey has also reaffirmed its economic support for Qatar. It is also important to mention here that the United States has a military base in Qatar. As your power and visibility grow, observers watch with great interest to see whether you’ll back off and claim victory, or whether you’ll continue to push on this front.

By all appearances, one desired outcome of your astonishingly rapid ascension to power is the monarchy’s hope that you will help build support for it among young Saudis. On the domestic front, you are known to favor giving women the right to drive, and for pushing to modernize and diversify the economy. These efforts must be accompanied by careful tending to Saudi clerics, who will not tolerate what they consider to be dramatic social reforms. You will have to thread the needle here, keeping in mind that your lavish lifestyle is being viewed in light of economic belt-tightening and the reduction in economic subsidies that have long been provided by the government. You will also have to carefully manage the public perception of your closer economic relations with Israel. Like your neighbor Jordan, tolerance for such moves run the risk causing severe public criticism, especially if no progress is made towards an Israeli-Palestinian accord, and even if relations with Israel bring strategic and economic benefits, you must manage these relations carefully and keep them under wraps. Finally, there is a widespread impression that you are power hungry, and that you were an active and aggressive agent in removing your uncle from the position of Crown Prince. Image wise this could play out in more positive terms, casting you as bold and decisive, or in harmful ways, presenting you as manipulative and egomaniacal….you must play things carefully.


The role of the Crown Prince is to see to any issue delegated by the King. It is also to provide the king with advice whenever necessary. Should the king be away, or unable to rule, the Crown Prince is expected to take his place and rule in his stead. The Crown Prince's powers are thus only limited by the King, who directly oversees his actions.

You should view yourself as the right hand for the king. Your position of power makes you highly visible to the world media. This is something you should take advantage of. Through the use of well-crafted press releases, you should endeavor to control Saudi Arabia's image. This is nothing new to you. Your strong efforts to control dissent and terrorism have required you to control media reports in the past. Were the mass arrests that you must sometimes perform to be presented in the wrong light, you could lose the support of the masses. It is your duty to make sure that the media portrays Saudi Arabia in the right light. Mass arrests in your estimation are part of the war on terror, they are not indiscriminate, and they have created a stable society. These same efforts should be used to tailor the way in which your nation's foreign affairs are portrayed. For example, in Yemen, your intervention should be characterized as being carried out against terrorists at the request of the lawfully elected government. This sounds much better than being characterized as a reactionary military effort to prevent the Shi'a from establishing a political and economic beachhead on the doorstep of Saudi Arabia.

Through controlling the Media, you will make the actions of the King much easier. Your power rests on the acceptance of the populace. Through using the media, it is your job to make sure the populace understands that your actions and the actions of the King are in their best interests. You can also use the media to appeal to the better nature of populations abroad. Many of your allies are democratic and reliant upon the will of their population. By correctly framing an issue, you may be able to weaken support for certain actions by appealing directly to the citizens of other countries.

As the Crown Prince, you should also remember that it is your duty to council the King on all issues. You should read about the positions of other countries and search out areas in which Saudi Arabia may be able to further its goals by allying its policies with those of other nations. Through your past dealings, you have established particularly strong relations with the United States and United Kingdom. This is a place where you might also be able to use your respected nature to aid the King with more difficult tasks. The Crown Prince is the right hand of the King, and his duties are many and all are trying. You are expected to be a communicator, an expert, and a ruler.

Remember that as a Crown Prince, everyone will be listening to and dissecting your work. It is your ultimate goal to plot a careful course ahead for your nation and to avoid losing the support of the people. Without them, your ability to rule does not exist. Your appointment to the position of Crown Prince is historic. However, it also comes at a difficult time. Terrorism is sweeping through the Arab nations, as is the desire for democracy. It is your duty to maintain a monarchy, crush terrorism, and keep the people happy. Whether or not these are mutually exclusive will depend greatly on your diplomatic skills. Your appointment as Crown Prince is expected by many to very soon result in your ascension to the throne, and if this comes to pass you will not only be one of the world’s most influential rulers, but you will be in position to assert your power and impact your nation and the world for decades.

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