Divisions within the Saudi ruling family may derail plans for the modernisation of the country, a new report by Al-Khaleej has concluded. The Arab newspaper said that cracks within the inner circle of King Salman, and the miscalculations of his son, Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman, have put the country’s Vision 2030 at grave risk.
The paper reported major differences between the King and his son, the de facto ruler over the past three years, has forced Salman to take hold of the reign to undo the damage caused by his son. Al-Khaleej cites the cancellation of the Aramco flotation, a major plank in Bin Salman’s modernisation plan, to illustrate the strength of division within the ruling family. It was “a new slap by the Saudi monarch to his son.”
Contradiction between Saudi Arabia’s domestic and foreign policy since the rise of Bin Salman has opened the door to the conflict between the royals, said the report. In a further sign of conflicting views and policies within the ruling family, the Saudi prince and brother of King Salman, Ahmed Bin Abdulaziz, was questioned about his loyalty to the regime after he appeared to distance himself from the policies of his brother and nephew.
A rare video shows Prince Ahmed speaking to protesters in London. His comments stirred controversy and indicated at a potential discord within the ruling family ranks, which forced him to issue a clarifying statement.
In the nearly two-minute clip, the prince seems to ask the protesters why they’re complaining to him and other family members rather than his brother and nephew. “What does the family have to do with it? Certain individuals are responsible… the king and the crown prince,” he said. Bin Abdulaziz was later forced to clarify his comments in an effort to display unity between the family.
Divisions and cracks within the royal family have coincided with a major set-back on the economic front, the report said. The decision to call off both the domestic and international stock listing of state oil giant Aramco, billed as the biggest such deal in history, was described as a major blow to Vision 2030. It was the pillar of Bin Salman’s modernisation plan.
The report noted that Bin Salman had taken decisions that were unprecedented in the country’s history. The 33-year-old prince presented himself as the “saviour of the Kingdom, the wise man and the protector of the country and of the people in the event of running out of oil”. This was reflected in his reformist vision, but many specialists and experts, said the report have predicted failure for his plans.
King Salman’s decision to step in at a crucial moment and cancel the sale three years after the announcement to float Aramco was a clear indication that the strategic vision of Bin Salman was flawed. The report cited Saudi sources and said that the king had consulted with a number of ruling family members and economic experts and concluded that his son’s plan would not be in the interest of the Kingdom and may negatively affect the country.
The report cited further interventions by the Saudi King to undo the damage caused by his son namely his support for US President Donald Trump’s peace plan concerning Israel and Palestine known as the “deal of the century”.
Bin Salman had privately given his backing to the deal even though it undermined Palestinian rights. Despite the US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem in the face of global outrage, Bin Salman had given no indication that he is protecting the basic rights of Palestine in any proposed deal. Instead he has been accused of berating Palestinians by telling them to accept Trump’s deal or shut up.
Bin Salman’s shameful outburst gave the impression that the Saudis were willing to surrender the Palestinian cause to sweeten the Americans and the Israelis. However, in recent months, Riyadh has shown a greater interest in the Palestinian cause, to undo the damage to Saudi’s reputation caused by Bin Salman’s complete acquiescence to Trump. It’s speculated that Bin Salman’s hostility towards Palestinians prompted his father to once again step in and vow to support Palestinian demands in the US-led peace deal.