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The price of silence will be high for Bin Salman

November 13, 2018 at 3:33 pm

A protestor wears an Mohammed Bin Salman mask at a vigil for murdered journalist on Jamal Khashoggi on 25 October 2018 [Chris McGrath/Getty Images]

There is no doubt that the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia is fighting for his political life. Once the international community accepted that the evidence pointed to his personal involvement in the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the de facto ruler of the Kingdom began to look for a lifebelt to save him from future prosecution. Mohammad Bin Salman seems to be more than willing to sacrifice everything near and dear to him in order to avoid being convicted on charges that are likely to follow him like shadows for years to come.

In relation to this, a delegation of leaders from the Evangelical Christian movement visited Bin Salman recently, and extensive discussions took place regarding many issues, beginning with the Khashoggi killing. The visit coordinator, Joel Rosenberg, who is an Israeli citizen, leaked the details of the meeting despite the fact that the Saudi Prince had asked for it to remain confidential.

According to Rosenberg, Bin Salman is angry about the media campaign against him personally, despite the fact that he is trying tirelessly to modernise Saudi society. The Prince apparently also addressed the Palestinian issue and said that it would help the Israelis and Palestinians to achieve a peaceful solution if they agree to the formula of Donald Trump’s “deal of the century”.

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This position is well known, as the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, was summoned to Riyadh and given the choice of either accepting the deal or resigning. Coming from Bin Salman, this was no surprise, especially because he had spoken with a Jewish delegation in New York last year, threatening the Palestinians and warning them against rejecting the US proposal.

The Saudi leader reminded the Christian group that Saudi Arabia and Israel have a shared enemy number one in Iran. He finds it incomprehensible that he is targeted personally at a time when he is trying to achieve rapprochement with Israel on two pressing issues: finishing off the Palestinian cause and containing the Iranian threat.

The truth is that Bin Salman is portraying Saudi Arabia under his leadership as a rock that will shatter Iran’s attempts to expand and increase its influence. Although the Saudi record in confronting Iran is not encouraging, Bin Salman aspires to include Israel in his efforts to eliminate the threat it is believed to pose.

What was the role of Prince MBS in Jamal Khashoggi's death - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

What was the role of Prince MBS in Jamal Khashoggi’s death – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Assessments in one Western capital talk about Bin Salman’s plans to take over power in Saudi Arabia, as he is looking to play a major role in leading the region. For the sake of this objective, he is offering all sorts of temptations and concessions to the US in the hope that they will help him in his quest to take over the government of his country officially, and help with the policies that he will follow. He already knows that his Western support passes through Tel Aviv, and this allows us to understand why Bin Salman played on Western and Israelis fears by describing Khashoggi as a “dangerous Islamist”.

The Israelis have instructed some of their close associates in Washington to start lobbying in favour of Bin Salman. It is important to remember the importance of the strategic role played by Saudi Arabia in the context of creating another narrative in the US, focusing on the great benefits of the alliance with the young Crown Prince.

READ: Israel media speculates over timing of Trump’s ‘deal of the century’

Promoting this delusion overlooks the fact that the US has been allied with Saudi Arabia since 1945 and has been the Kingdom’s main protector for decades. Hence, there are many Americans who refuse to buy this on the basis that the strategic alliance is not between Washington and Bin Salman, but between Washington and Riyadh.

Given that the PR officers have failed to polish his image and portray Bin Salman as a reformer, Riyadh is afraid that the noose is indeed tightening around its own neck. This is especially so because Turkey has not given Saudi officials any time to catch their breath since Khashoggi’s killing on 2 October. We do not know just how far Mohammad Bin Salman will go in this game of political survival, but the price of silence about the crime at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul will be high.

This article first appeared in Arabic in Arabi21 on 13 November 2018

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.