Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Saudi Crown Prince taking his cues from the Trump family?

It seems to me no coincidence that Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner visited Saudi Arabia just days before Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's recent ill-advised and contentious moves at home, in Yemen and in Lebanon, moves that have alarmed the international community, and further destabilized an already rocky region.
The fiery and impulsive young 32-year old prince has clearly taken a hard line in Saudi Arabia's perennial war of influence against Iran. His role in cutting off already hard-pressed Yemen from the world, his probable involvement in the chastisement of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, and his recent purge of princes, officials, businessmen and military officers (involving the detention of over 200 people and the freezing of 1,200 bank accounts in a sweeping ""anti-corruption" probe), all seem pretty clear. And his headstrong, devil-may-care, act-first-think-later approach is so much like that of a certain American president is surely no coincidence.
Trump himself is, for reasons that remain vague to me, adamantly anti-Iran, and is, probably for that reason alone, doggedly pro-Saudi in all his pronouncements. He strongly endorsed the corruption crackdown on individuals who he accused of "milking" the regime for years. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, on the other hand, has been much more guarded in his comments.
It is looking as though the Prince has overreached himself, though, and he is now frantically backpedalling in the face of sharp criticism from human rights, humanitarian and aid agencies, from the United Nations as a whole, and even from the USA itself. Thus, al-Hariri is returning to Lebanon with a markedly more conciliatory tone than before being summoned to Riyadh; Yemen's shuttered airports and seaports are to be reopened; and Saudi Arabia's UN ambassador has promised that those arrested in the anti-corruption purge will be granted due legal process.
Perhaps the Saudis will take this as a wake-up call that a Trump-style approach is not necessarily advisable or acceptable, that the US administration is not just Trump (and Kushner) alone, and that they still need the goodwill of the international community not just a few American mavericks.
As for what Kushner and the other senior White House advisors who visited Riyadh recently actually talked about, well, like so many of these things, we'll probably never actually know. But Trump's modus operandi was all over the Crown Prince's cack-handed machinations of recent weeks.

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