By Simon Templar
Have you seen the ending of the 1972 movie, “The Godfather”? It brilliantly showed the bloody scenes of the “takeover” of the Mafia by Michael Corleone (Al Pacino).
One by one, all the bosses of the rival families are killed and removed until all opposition is gone and the Corleone family’s control over Mafia is complete.
Something very similar is happening right now in Saudi Arabia as I am writing these lines. In just less than two days, 49 influential Saudis have been arrested, which include 11 members of the Royal family.
Among them is Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal, who happens to be the richest Saudi prince and businessmen and also one of the top 50 richest and most influential businessmen in the world.
As if that was not intriguing enough, a helicopter carrying several Saudi officials, including Prince Mansour bin Muqrin Al Saud, has crashed in the kingdom’s southwest near the border with Yemen.
Prince Mansour was the son of the former crown prince of Saudi Arabia and was a very influential man in the Kingdom.
According to many, if things were normal, he would have been the future king of Saudi Arabia.
What’s going on? For that we have to go back in time, to see how the ascension to the Saudi throne has been working in the past.
The first King of Saudi Arabia was Abdulaziz ibn Al Saud. He conquered his ancestral region of Nejd (central Saudi Arabia) and Hejaz (Western Coast of Saudi Arabia that includes the two holy cities) and became the king of this newly created kingdom called Saudi Arabia.
After him one by one his sons became kings. This was a unique system in which the sons of the first king took turns one after another.
Everyone knew who will be the king and who will be the crown prince. It was a very stable system but only in a short term.
Because although the first king had a long line of sons, it had to end someday. It was inevitable that one day when all the sons of the first king will die or grow extremely old, then the question will arise that in whose family-line the kingship will be transferred?
As more time passed, more uncertainty and rivalry grew among the princes and family-lines of various former kings of Saudi Arabia.
The current official estimate of the members of the Royal house of Saud is around 15000 princelings, among them many debauche, deviant, cruel and abnormal.
In 2015, when the present King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud came to power, he was the 25th son of the first king and already 79 years old.
Like his older brothers before him, he appointed his younger brother Muqrin bin Abdulaziz as the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. It was understood that after Salman, Prince Muqrin will be king.
And it was becoming increasingly likely that after Muqrin, no son of the first king will be around or fit enough to rule the Kingdom. Hence the throne will most probably pass to Muqrin’s family and his son, Prince Mansour (now dead in a mysterious helicopter crash) will become the next king.
Everyone could see that possibility but suddenly something strange happened. Just spending four months as the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Muqrin was removed by King Salman on the pretext of the Crown Prince’s ill health whereas The King himself is ill and senile!
The King appointed his own mercurial young son Prince Muhammad bin Salman as the crown prince of Saudi Arabia.
The writing on the wall was now clear that the transfer of kingship among the sons of the first king officially ended and the kingship will subsequently be transferred in the family-line of King Salman downwards.
But here is the problem. It was an unnatural transfer. The natural transfer was supposed to happen in Crown Prince Muqrin’s family-line, if he was allowed to rule.
There was this extremely uncomfortable, pregnant silence in the royal family but tensions were simmering under this ominous calm, in the wake of this unconventional power transfer.
Domestically, Prince Muhammad immediately started consolidating power by taking control of one institution after another.
There is hardly anything today in Saudi Arabia that can be done without his approval. His orders are that everything big or small will go through him.
But among Royalty, history teaches us that the silence of the royal family or control of national institutions is never enough to consolidate power in modern day Saudi Arabia.
Prince Muhammad also needed the approval and backing of America. Something that every Saudi King needs, specially after the Gulf crisis of 1991.
And for that purpose, Prince Muhammad needed Yousef Al Otaiba , the current United Arab Emirates ambassador to the United States and a charismatic and shrewd businessman from a very influential family of UAE.
Yousef Al Otaiba is like one of those people about whom you do not hear or know very much, but they are the real power brokers in Washington and other important capitals of the world and whose influence extends far beyond their apparent job specifications.
This alliance between Prince Muhammad and Yousef became very instrumental in sponsoring Prince Muhammad in the halls of Washington. Yousef Al Otaiba not only got important connections for Prince Muhammad but was also the key man behind the May 2017 US$350 billion arms deal between US and Saudi Arabia signed by President Trump.
It was a plain and simple deal based on crystal clear interests. President Trump needed Saudi money for creating jobs, under the banner of which he fought his election campaign and also to show progress after repeated domestic failures.
Prince Muhammad on the other hand wanted to show the Royal family that now he has the needed approval of Washington for his ascension to the throne with backing.
This new friendship with powerful people in Washington gave the exact kind of dangerous confidence to Prince Muhammad, the consequences of which we subsequently saw in the Middle East.
The ruthless bombing campaign in Yemen, the standoff with Qatar and the ever-increasing belligerence towards Iran, are some of the apparent consequences of Prince Muhammad’s newly found alliances.
But the influence of Yousef Al Otaiba on Prince Muhammad went a little beyond that. The recent relaxation of laws like allowing Saudi women more freedoms etc are a manifestation of that welcome influence to modernise a hypocritical and archaic society.
Yousef not only convinced Prince Muhammad to pass these laws, he also peddled these changes in Washington to show that how much “moderate” Prince Muhammad will be as the King of Saudi Arabia.
But soon the backlash came. While Prince Muhammad was busy showing his “progressive” side to the west, the influential sidelined members of Saudi Royal family and many hardline clerics of the powerful Wahabi establishment were getting restless and vocal about Prince Muhammad’s legitimacy as the next king and his methods of ruling the Kingdom.
Washington was monitoring all these developments and gave Prince Muhammad a go-ahead signal through a recent visit to Riyadh by Jared Kushner, who is the son in law of and Senior Advisor to the President Trump.
Resultantly the political purge started with these high profile arrests in the name of crackdown against corruption, alongside a dead man in a “mysterious” helicopter crash who could’ve been the next king.
And for now it seems that the Mafia style takeover of the Saudi throne is underway by a young, ruthless godfather who seeks to dominate the landscape of Middle East for a long time to come.
Modernisation, privatisation and elimination of the power of the clergy are on the agenda. Instead of doddering old semi senile octogenarians ruling over a rigid narrow repressive ultraconservative society, an energetic young man has been chosen to revamp and reshape Arabia, giving it a place among the modern countries of the world.
Pakistan too needs to wake up, its sycophantic policy of verring to the right, pandering to wahabi ideology for handouts of dollars has driven it to the lip of the abyss and certain destruction.
Now that its masters are abandoning antiquated and abnormal policies to be in sync with the world, so should this nuclear armed impoverished nation of 220 million which lost its secular soul at the alter of jihad fuelled by petro dollars.
The world has been watching silently as the capital has been held hostage by a few dozen radical Islamic fundamentalists. Great unease at this sight of the nuclear armed Government being helpless in the face of a rag tag band of mullahs is felt in the west and a decision has been taken: this will not stand!
Change is inevitable, Pakistanis can choose, they can initiate it themselves and start the process of normalisation, else it shall be imposed from abroad. For too long has the world tolerated the basket case of South Asia…the clock has run out! Be warned!
Templar, the Author is a geo- strategist based in Brussels.