The Saudi government is probably not in immediate danger. King Salman and MBS have successfully centralized control of the major nodes of power in Saudi Arabia: the tribal elites, the national guard, the military, the interior ministry and the clerics. The speculation that MBS will be ditched because of Khashoggi’s murder is misplaced; King Salman has ordered a reorganization of Saudi intelligence services as a mea culpa, but he has put MBS directly in charge of the process. There may very well be a crisis of succession when King Salman, who at 82 years old may not last to see what becomes of Vision 2030, dies. MBS has positioned himself as the heir apparent, but he himself skipped a few places in the line of succession, and there’s no guarantee that someone else won’t try to do likewise. But a succession crisis is a far cry from overthrowing the current king, who still enjoys widespread loyalty. While he’s around, there is no institutional force inside the kingdom that can bring about regime change without foreign intervention or outright revolution. This is why King Salman and MBS are so skittish in general, and why they are taking no chances with dissidents like Khashoggi – or any of the numerous other Saudi officials who have been purged in recent years.
All the while, Saudi Arabia will try to accomplish the impossible – a complete reorientation of its political economy in 12 years. It will probably fail. So long as Saudi Arabian oil keeps flowing, the kingdom can buy allies such as Egypt and Pakistan, and so as long as the United States remains committed to countering Iran, the Saudis can be sure that Washington will ignore its human rights abuses. Turkey is better positioned than any other country to capitalize on the friction that comes from this arrangement, and already it is moving to take advantage of the opportunity. It does not need to balance against Iran while the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia engage in that hard work. It can simply play the role of a beneficent power and de facto spiritual leader, the sultanate and the caliphate reborn in the 21st century.
It’s ironic that Saudi Arabia and the United States have what they thought they wanted from their relationship. Iran is buckling, and the Islamic State has been crushed. What’s unclear is whether Riyadh and Washington can continue to be useful to each other now that the unintended consequences of their reinvigorated relationship have been laid bare.
About Jacob Logan Shapiro:
Jacob Logan Shapiro is the Director of Analysis for Geopolitical Futures (GPF). At GPF he oversees a team of analysts, the company’s forecasting process and the day-to-day analysis of important geopolitical developments. Prior to working at GPF, Shapiro worked at Stratfor, the geopolitical intelligence firm founded by George Friedman in 1996. He joined GPF after Friedman left Stratfor in May 2015 to help found a new company dedicated to publishing excellent analysis and accurate forecasts based on the geopolitical method Friedman pioneered.
To Learn more about Jacob contact [email protected]
Derek Sweeney is the Director of Speaker Ideas at The Sweeney Agency. www.thesweeneyagency.com. For 15 years Derek has been helping clients find the right Speakers for their events. Derek can be reached at 1-866 727-7555 or [email protected]