Saudi Arabia recovers its initiative-taking spirit
Unlike the former Soviet Union, Saudi Arabia dared to make the change at the right time.
2017/06/25 Issue: 112 Page: 2
The Arab Weekly
There is only one explanation for what has been happening in Saudi Arabia: The kingdom has recovered its initiative-taking spirit.
Saudi Arabia needs a solid leader who is capable of making bold decisions. That person is King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. It also needs someone who can implement those decisions, which is precisely the role of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz.
Naming Mohammed bin Salman as crown prince does not mean that former Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz has not given his utmost attention to achieving King Salman’s objectives. On the contrary, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef carried out perfectly the role assigned to him during a specific phase, especially in the domain of security, which was his forte.
Today’s fast-changing environment, however, requires Saudi Arabia to alter its approach. It should look to influence events rather than wait to react. With more solid internal stability, Saudi Arabia must look to take on a wider role regionally and internationally. This explains the kingdom’s decision to institute compulsory military service for university graduates.
As deputy crown prince, Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been working tirelessly to respond to the different challenges facing the kingdom. Saudi Arabia can no longer afford to make mistakes in these fast-changing circumstances, especially given that Iran has not abandoned its expansionist programme. Gone is the time for blaming others and now is the time for action.
There are real problems in the kingdom that can no longer be ignored. One of them is that some Saudi citizens espouse extremist ideologies and are working with terrorist organisations. Since his investiture as deputy crown prince in 2015, Prince Mohammed bin Salman has chosen to face these realities rather than ignore them.
Saudi Arabia is engaged on several war fronts. The international contexts for these wars are different and constantly shifting. Saudi Arabia is clearly targeted by Iran and Qatar is following a policy aimed at weakening the Gulf Cooperation Council.
The kingdom had no choice but to react. It started by taking care of its internal affairs. Vision 2030, an initiative by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is an example of a programme intended to give young Saudis reasons to look forward to a bright future rather than become slaves to the culture of death. Vision 2030 gave young Saudis an opportunity to participate in fixing the needs of Saudi society without the limitations of extreme conservatism.
Slumping oil prices brought new realities, such as the need for bold reforms inside Saudi Arabia. Externally, the kingdom faced threats that required long-term solutions and a lot of perseverance and patience. There was no room for hesitation. Qatar had to be stopped and Iran was a continuous threat. Tehran is trying to absorb Iraq and turn it into a base for terrorist attacks in the Arabian Gulf. Above all, the terrorist threat, both Sunni and Shia, was ever present.
Saudi Arabia had to change fundamentally and deal with the various threats and challenges. So it did.
Many initiatives were taken. Naming Mohammed bin Salman crown prince was one of them. The recent summit in Riyadh with US President Donald Trump in attendance was another. The Saudi political leadership has become more coherent and more cohesive. It surprised Iran in Yemen and halted Tehran’s evil plan to surround Saudi Arabia.
The kingdom’s internal affairs were fixed such that there were no longer faults that could be used to weaken it from the inside. It has become clear who the country’s king is and who will eventually replace him.
Saudi Arabia has a more comprehensive vision for the Gulf region and has decided to take actions commensurate with its regional weight. The kingdom is a major player in the Middle East and in the Arabian Gulf and will assume that role without fear or hesitation.
It seems that Saudi Arabia was aware of the necessity of a fundamental change because it wanted to avoid falling into the same trap as the former Soviet Union. The Soviet Union ceased to exist when its leadership became too old and it failed to make necessary changes. Even though he was very old and not in the best physical and mental conditions, Leonid Brezhnev clung to power. When he died, two old men replaced him.
By the time Mikhail Gorbachev was in power, it was too late for change. The Soviet Union disintegrated and paid a heavy price for fearing to implement needed change at the right time.
The Saudi leadership was aware of the need for change but, unlike the former Soviet Union, Saudi Arabia dared to make the change at the right time. With Mohammed bin Salman as crown prince, the kingdom is ready for leadership roles in the region and internationally.