Saudi Arabia’s 32-year-old crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman al-Saud, fancies himself as a champion of “moderate Wahhabism,” something that does not actually exist, and clean government. In fact, this fast-rising son of the decrepit 81-year-old King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, was a prime motivator behind the creation of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), or “Da’esh,” in Iraq and Syria, the chief architect of the genocidal Saudi-led war in Yemen, and the driving force behind the Gulf Cooperation Council’s economic and travel sanctions imposed on Qatar.
Rather than being a reformer or “moderate,” MBS, as he is known in Saudi Arabia and abroad, hearkens back to an age when rival sheikhs and tribal leaders vied for control over wide patches of desert lands in Arabia. MBS’s ongoing coup d’état against some of Saudi Arabia’s most powerful and wealthiest princes points to his determination to become an autocratic ruler over Saudi Arabia once his father, King Salman, leaves the scene. MBS has curbed the power of Saudi Arabia’s dreaded religious police and allowed women the right to drive in an effort to gain popular support for his own “Salmanist” movement in Saudi Arabia, one that brooks no dissent and rules with an iron fist. MBS will use Wahhabism for his own advantage and when it is against his interests, he will not hesitate to clamp down on Wahhabist domestic clerics and foreign missionaries. Indeed, some Middle East experts see MBS’s rapid rise to power as eventually achieving the same autocratic rule over Saudi Arabia as that commanded by the founder of the modern Saudi state, Abdulaziz bin Saud, in the 1930s.
MBS’s rise to a prominent role within the House of Saud began in October 2011 when Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz died. Salman, who had been governor of Riyadh province, and, as WMR reported, a major bankroller for Al Qaeda mercenaries traveling to Afghanistan, became second deputy prime minister and defense minister in November 2011. Salman made MBS his personal adviser and with that wide portfolio, the young prince helped initiate the jihadist rebellion in Syria against President Bashar al Assad and the uprising against Muammar Qaddafi in Libya. MBS also aided his father, the defense minister, in helping to brutally crush a pro-democracy uprising in Bahrain.
In November 2012, Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Salman’s brother, died. Salman was named crown prince and first deputy prime minister. Salman basically ran Saudi Arabia’s domestic affairs while his half-brother, King Abdullah, was out of the country, which was often. Crown Prince Salman’s penchant for charitable contributions to poor majority Muslim countries, which was shared by MBS, saw Saudi funds flow into the coffers of Wahhabist radical groups in Somalia, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Sudan.
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