Who is Mohammed Bin Salman?
Who is Mohammed Bin Salman?
Let’s start with the basics - the stuff that we know. Bin Salman is the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, and is the youngest defense minister on Earth at just 32. Mohammed Bin Salman has also launched an ambitious “vision 2030” project that is attempting to modernize Saudi Arabia, and bring the desert kingdom past its reliance on oil as well as introduce a more tolerant form of Islam.. This move has been praised by many.
This is pretty much all we surely know about Mohammed Bin Salman, but the rumors surrounding him are probably true. Saudi Arabia’s recent purge which restructured the royal family and arrested many prominent businessmen was probably an effort by Mohammed Bin Salman to consolidate his claim to the Saudi throne. Bin Salman is rumored to be the favorite son of Saudi Arabia’s current King, King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud (also known as King Salman). King Salman is 81 years old however, and appears to be in declining health. While the desert kingdom is largely a tightly veiled secret, it is entirely possible that Bin Salman is already King in all but name, and within the next 10 years, it is extremely likely that Bin Salman will be crowned as official ruler of Saudi Arabia.
Mohammed Bin Salman brings much hope to the west in terms of modernizing Saudi Arabia, whose Wahhabi government is stuck in the 7th century when it comes to law and human rights. In addition to moving past oil, vision 2030 also mentions tolerance and moderation frequently, a welcome change for Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia’s recent allowance for women to drive has been largely attributed to Mohammed Bin Salman. Salman has also created an entertainment authority which could allow for cinemas and concerts inside the kingdom. It is important to note that, while by western standards this doesn’t seem like much, this is revolutionary for Saudi Arabia. Additionally, Saudi Arabia’s population is even more conservative than the royal family, as western ideals never reached their part of the world. Bin Salman’s measures have driven a split between younger, more liberal Saudis, and the older, more conservative generation. This could end up being a big problem for Bin Salman.
In terms of foreign policy, however, Bin Salman is no humanitarian. Salman has been the driving force behind Saudi Arabia’s deadly airstrikes in Yemen, which have killed thousands of Yemeni civilians in an effort to destroy the Iran-backed Houthi rebels. In fact, Bin Salman looks poised to escalate the already devastating proxy war with Iran even further. He recently compared Iran’s supreme leader to Hitler, leading to Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman calling him “immature” and “weak-minded”. With a potential powder-keg in Lebanon, and an escalating war of words between Bin Salman and Iran, another bout of proxy wars between Iran and the Saudis could be on the horizon.
Mohammed Bin Salman is a Saudi nationalist. He believes in modernizing Saudi Arabia for its own good, much like Ataturk of Turkey did in the 1920s. Unlike Ataturk, however, Bin Salman looks more and more like a warmonger, who will expand, rather than ease, tensions with Iran. Only time will tell as to what this intriguing combination will bring for Saudi Arabia, the Middle East, and the entire world.