Part of the royal family and of the business reveals a growing intolerance towards the crown prince. Doubts about driving his capabilities have increased after the attack on refineries. Critical of his anti-Iranian policies and involvement in Yemen. The only alternative is 77-year-old Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, King Salman’s brother.
Riyadh (AsiaNews / Agencies) - In Saudi Arabia an increasingly large part of the royal family and the business world is showing intolerance and frustration towards the leadership of the crown prince (reformist) Mohammad bin Salman (Mbs), the strong man of the Wahhabi kingdom .
Diplomatic sources and personalities close to the Saud royal family, composed of over 10 thousand members among the various branches and lineages, interviewed by Reuters confirm - behind anonymity - a climate of "concern" about the command ability of the 34 year old Mbs. Doubts and uncertainties that have increased in the last two weeks, following the twin attack on Saudi oil refineries.
The raid at the heart of the resource par excellence of the Saudi economy, crude oil, has fueled the criticisms and perplexities of those who criticize the foreign policy of bin Salman: a two-pronged link with the United States, openness to Israel and an all-out attack Iran, considered the region's number one enemy. "There is great resentment - explains a source - towards the leadership of the crown prince" who was unable to "foil the attack".
Despite the criticisms, there is still a substantial slice of the Saudi population - especially among the common people - who show support and appreciation for Mbs, considered a determined and dynamic leader.
In recent days, he has returned to attack Tehran requesting a "strong and decisive" action by the international community, adding however to prefer the path of "peaceful solution" with respect to the military conflict.
In the Saudi kingdom there is an absolute Sunni monarchy, governed by a Wahhabi and fundamentalist vision of Islam. The crown prince is the next in line of succession to the 83-year-old monarch King Salman and the "de facto" leader of the country. He has promised to turn the kingdom into a modern nation; the reforms introduced in the last two years have touched the social sphere and rights, including the go-ahead for women to drive and access (controlled) stadiums.
However, the arrests of senior officials and entrepreneurs, the repression of activists and critical voices and, ultimately, the Khashoggi affair have cast a shadow over the real change. Criticisms that emerge with increasing force even within the Muslim world, especially among the young who attack what they call the "reign of terror" perpetrated by bin Salman to preserve power.
Mbs is also the holder of the Defense portfolio, therefore the attacks on the refineries have undermined the prestige and the authority of the leader in pectore. "There is a decline in confidence - says Neil Quilliam, a prominent analyst at Chatham House and an expert on Saudi Arabia and Gulf nations - in his ability to guarantee the security of the country and, consequently, in its policies."
Critical voices say that aggressive foreign policy towards Iran and involvement in Yemen have exposed the Wahhabi kingdom to attacks from outside. And the strengthening of control has ended up irritating part of the leadership, today relegated to the margins. In addition, Mbs is accused of placing loyalists in key roles, although inadequate to the role.
Some members of the royal family see 77-year-old Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, the only surviving brother of King Salman, the only possible alternative to the rise of Bin Salman. He would enjoy the support of some elements of the Al Saud family, part of the security apparatus and some Western powers. "Everyone looks to Ahmed - says a businessman - to see what he will do. The family continues to think that he is the only one that can save them ", but there are no signs that he is really willing to fight for power and leadership.