It is inevitable that sooner than later, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) will accept Israel and start formalization of relations with the Jewish state, once the November US elections end, no matter who wins.
It has already come to light that UAE and Bahrain have normalized their relations with Israel, after the apparent nod from KSA. Sudan too has followed suit, and the 22 Arab states are all very likely to make a beeline to establish relations with Israel on KSA’s lines, though dictated from the US.
But, the KSA crown prince MBS, in the meanwhile, is said to have expressed his gravest concern that after such a move, he might be assassinated by Iran, Qatar or his own people!
This startling revelation was made by a Jewish Israeli-American billionaire Haim Saban, as reported by the Israel newspaper Haaretz on October 23, 2020. Saban is a billionaire in the media industry and the founder of Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.
Saban’s importance can be gauged from the fact that he was one of the few democrats who was present when the ‘Abraham Accords’ were signed on September 15, 2020.
He is said to have claimed that the Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman reportedly told (him) that he couldn’t have joined neighbours Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates in normalizing ties with Israel because doing so would get him “killed” by Iran, Qatar and or his own people.
The point which may be put across is that the true fears of MBS for sure do not lie with Iran or Qatar, but in fact, with his own people, who irrespective of the upcoming KSA-Israel deal, have been since long relegated to the dark.
It is pertinent to mention that MBS is not the eldest son of his father, for he comes from his second wife Fahdah bin Sultan. King Salman had five sons already from his first wife, and after MBS acceding to power in 2017, when he was only 32, there was a great deal of consternation amongst his siblings, who all had been forced to disengage from KSA affairs.
Even the rest of the larger royal family members saw MBS’ succession with muted disbelief for it being a clear departure from the past traditions, i.e. where a brother inherited a brother. There are also a number of those who were escorted to five-star-prison in 2017 and forfeited their wealth on charges of having accumulated it out of corrupt means.
The MBS himself had headed that crackdown, and his cousins along with other well-known offenders, close to his father, were let scot-free, New York Times had reported on March 21, 2020.
Even the likes of Waleed Bin Talal, who in a New York Times op-ed in 2011 wrote to King Abdullah about the impending reforms for the KSA economy to become independent of oil.
The KSA then shifted its focus from oil and announced a whopping 500 billion USD for the Neom City project in 2017 and Vision 2030. Even this man was not spared until they robbed him of much of his wealth, apart from many of his uncles and cousins who were met with the same treatment.
These are the own people MBS is referring as, after all, apart from friends and enemies there are a lot of ‘frenemies’ too around MBS! The crown prince’s Maldives party of 2015, where he spent millions of dollars on 150 Russian models, had to be called off after a week as the CIA gave a whiff of it to the Iranian media. The incident has all been detailed in the recently released book ‘Blood and Oil.’
There are certainly two ‘kinds of law’ in practice, despite the tall claims of the simplicity of the Islamic way of life.
There is already an undeclared Israel-KSA friendship, which is very likely to be announced as a Christmas gift by the US administration very soon. This may give an appropriate opportunity to all the disgruntled royals and embittered ‘frenemies’ to foment an unbecoming situation, which MBS would want to thwart at any cost.
According to TRT World (October 7 report), unrest might be fuelled as the majority of the Arab populace is against the normalization of ties with Israel. There may be a likelihood of Turkey or Malaysia withdrawing their embassies from KSA in the wake of such a move, despite Israel having its embassy in Ankara.
Thus, MBS perspective on Iran or Qatar might be far-fetched but surely the situation inside the home is to hound him for long.
MBS is already battling the two suits pending against him in the US, one by his own former intelligence official Saad Al Jabri, who has accused him to have sent death squads to kill him the way he got Jamal Khashoggi killed. And also by his fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, who accused MBS of murdering Khashoggi.
The crown prince is certainly going to have a hard time both externally and internally as there is already a ban imposed on Turkish goods inside KSA, whereas, Turkey has banned French products after the outrage over Prophet Muhammed cartoons in France.
And while Pakistan, Iran and Malaysia have also assailed France, KSA has been trepid with its response to the development. The European nations have supported France and, no wonder, India is the first non-European nation to have supported France over its controversial response to growing extremist attacks at home.
The writer is a former State Information Commissioner, India. He is a media analyst and writes on international politics. Views Personal