Trump Had Another Win This Week: Saudi Arabia
New crown prince is a key ally of the new administration
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 22, 2017 10:53 AM CDT
The new crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.   (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)

(Newser) – Quick, name a candidate favored by President Trump who scored a victory this week. Sure, Karen Handel in Georgia and Ralph Norman in South Carolina come to mind, but the New York Times points out another: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia. It wasn't an election, of course, but he was named the new successor to the throne in his country, and the Times explains how Mohammed has emerged as an important ally of the Trump administration. One sign: The 31-year-old dined at the home of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump on a visit to DC, then returned the favor by hosting them on their visit to Saudi Arabia. Among other things, he favors a hard line against Iran and is leading the Saudi move to punish Qatar for its purported support of terrorism. Other coverage of the prince:

  • Fast rise: Mohammed effectively assumed control of the nation's economic and defense policies in 2015, the same year his father took the throne, reports MarketWatch. Given that his father is 81, his ascension to crown prince raises the prospect that Saudi Arabia might have a king in the not-too-distant future who would rule for decades.
  • Nickname: He goes by MBS (or MbS), notes the AP in a profile of the "bold and ambitious risk taker." The Washington Post has different adjectives used by detractors: "reckless and impulsive."
  • Changing country: The Wall Street Journal assesses, noting the shakeup comes at a crucial point in modern Saudi history. "Low oil prices and mounting demographic pressures are tearing at the kingdom’s fragile social contract, making change even more urgent and political unity at the top a greater priority." The king's decision to replace his 57-year-old nephew with his son as successor was seen by close observers as inevitable.
  • Risk for US: That he shares Trump's hawkish views on Iran might carry a risk for the US, analysts tell Reuters. Expect the Iran-Saudi Arabia hostility to intensify, which could make it more likely for the US to be "dragged deeper into the Sunni-Shi’ite conflict playing out across the Middle East."
  • Worried: There may be some "quiet muttering" in Saudi Arabia about the the move, but don't expect a challenge because the king's decision is absolute, writes the Brookings Institution's Bruce Riedel at Al-Monitor's Gulf Pulse. "The longer-term costs of upsetting the legitimacy of the line of succession in the midst of low oil prices and regional tensions are much more worrisome," he adds. "The young prince is poised to inherit a kingdom under stress at home and abroad."
  • Oil markets: Traders are taking a leery, wait-and-see approach in regard to the world's biggest oil-producing nation, reports CNBC. Older generations of rulers have let "seasoned technocrats" run the nation's oil industry, notes the New York Times, but Mohammed is expected to exert more control.
  • Unique system: Need a primer on Saudi Arabia's monarchial system? Slate provided one in 2015 when current King Salman took over. Any king must be a male descendant of the first king, Abdulaziz, who died in 1953. That has made for a line of relatively old successors up until now.

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