The momentous change instituted in Saudi Arabia by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in recent weeks has surprised and unnerved many.
The measures taken by the 32-year-old Crown Prince are breathtaking in their scale and unprecedented in Saudi Arabia.
Under the auspices of an anti-corruption drive, Mohammed bin Salman has detained a number of Saudi princes, ministers, former ministers, media owners, tycoons, intellectuals and influential clerics while seizing their assets.
These moves are an attempt by Mohammed bin Salman to create a unitary executive that will allow him to take on big ticket items in the foreign policy and domestic realms, many involving important reform.
Common interests oblige Washington to support his efforts of forcing change on the many deep-rooted issues facing the kingdom while also working with him to implement sustainable political reform.
The menace of Iran as well as the prospects for curbing the export of hateful ideology require the US to support Mohammed bin SalmanTed Gover
Much to the detriment of Saudi Arabia and the US, Iran is ascendant.
It has successfully kept Bashar al-Asad in power in Syria, enabled Hezbollah’s political dominance in Lebanon, fomented unrest in Bahrain, contributed to the defeat of ISIS in Iraq through Tehran-backed paramilitary groups (who still remain on Iraqi soil) and armed to much effect Shiite Houthi rebels in the Yemeni civil war.
Beyond this, Iran’s nuclear program remains intact. Mohammed bin Salman is trying to turn this around. He has been tough on Iran, accusing it of trying to dominate the Middle East, while working to build on the bond developed between his father and President Trump in their efforts to restrain Tehran. He has also taken on Iran-backed Hezbollah.
Mohammed bin Salman is spearheading Vision 2030, a plan to modernize the economy that involves research and development spanning biomedical, artificial intelligence, drones and robots as well as the building of a new $500 billion city to support these efforts. The new city will also be a place of entertainment where men and women can mix publicly without the interference of authorities.
These and other initiatives – steering Riyadh away from reliance on fossil fuels; privatizing state-owned companies; allowing women to drive – are part of Mohammed bin Salman’s efforts to remake Saudi Arabia’s economy and society.
In his sweep of arrests, some of the most troublesome of clerics were also locked away. This, in addition to his bold October 24 promise to destroy “extremist ideologies” and return Saudi Arabia to “a more moderate Islam.”
Yet, the menace of Iran as well as the prospects for curbing the export of hateful ideology require the US to support Mohammed bin Salman. All this while working with him to do more toward protecting the political rights of Saudi citizens and advancing the rule of law.
Ted Gover, Ph.D., is an adjunct instructor of political science at Central Texas College, US Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.