When Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman (MbS) is nervous, his thick lower lip begins to quiver uncontrollably. People’s nervousness shows in different ways. His American master Donald Trump narrows his eyes and twitches them when nervous while Narendra Modi constantly licks his lips with his snake-like tongue.
Whatever the particular form of nervousness of an individual, there are plenty of reasons why MbS feels nervous these days. Those around him say that MbS’ quivering lower lip makes him resemble a camel. The beast of the desert has reason for its lips to quiver — it wants to grab food and is part of its physiological makeup — but what about MbS, the beast of the palace?
His list of troubles is long and he has only himself to blame. At home he has disrupted all the old equations that had served Bani Saud well for more than eight decades even if it was detrimental to the people of the Arabian Peninsula. Abroad, he has made too many enemies from Islamic Iran, Yemen, Syria, and Turkey to Qatar. Perhaps, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) may also be added to this list now.
Bin Salman simply does not have the mental capacity to deal with all these challenges at once. He is not even able to manage one of these on his own. After bombing dirt-poor Yemen for more than four years, killing nearly 100,000 people and destroying much of the country’s infrastructure, the Yemenis have struck back with a vengeance.
The September 14 Yemeni drone strikes on the Kingdom’s oil facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais have knocked the bottom out of Saudi Arabia’s oil-based economy. And the US-supplied missile defence shield at the cost of billions of dollars was exposed as useless against $15,000 drones.
The entire Saudi establishment that essentially revolves around one man — MbS — is in turmoil. They have scurried to the Americans for help. The hundreds of billions of dollars worth of weapons the Saudis have purchased, mostly from the US, simply cannot protect them from inexpensive drones.
The Americans have offered the same old solutions that have already failed: more weapons worth billions of dollars and a few hundred soldiers. The US-built billion-dollar-a-piece Patriot anti-missile batteries have not proved too patriotic. If they cannot intercept $15,000 drones, what use are these fancy missiles? But MbS is now totally under the thumb of the Americans and the Zionists. Unless he keeps forking out more billions, the Americans will abandon him and he will be toast. His shelf life is in any case, close to expiring.
At home he is in a race against time aware that his father, King Salman is in poor health and could drop dead any day. MbS wants to consolidate his position by eliminating all rivals, real or imagined, as long as his father is alive, even if in a severe state of dementia. With the king around, other members of the family who are much senior to MbS will not raise objections. All decisions, while taken by MbS, are presented in the name of the king. Based on the long established tradition, other members of the family defer to seniority. So the king’s mere presence, even in a state of dementia, prevents other members of the family from challenging MbS.
Once the king is dead — how long can he last — all bets are off. There is bound to be opposition to MbS from different quarters. The upstart crown prince has rubbed far too many princes and others the wrong way. He is also placing loyalists in sensitive positions in hopes they will serve and protect him. This may be misplaced optimism.
It is, however, his troubles abroad that are beginning to have serious repercussions for developments at home. The daring drone strikes launched by Yemen’s Ansarullah revolutionaries at the financial nerve centre of Saudi Arabia — Aramco — has shaken MbS to his slippers. Aramco was about to be offered for International Public Offerings (IPO) and MbS had hoped to garner $1.5 to $2 trillion. With its refineries reduced to smoldering wreckage and its oil exports slashed by 50%, Saudi Arabia is heading for trouble despite optimistic statements made on its behalf by American officials and media.
The war on Syria, in which Saudi-backed mercenaries played a leading role, is on the verge of ending. The US-Zionist-Saudi-Turkish instigated regime change conspiracy in Syria has been defeated. While others may be able to withstand the consequences of this defeat, for the Saudis, the blowback will be severe. Coupled with their defeat in Yemen, it is not difficult to envision the looming crisis. Even their Emirati cousins have abandoned them in Yemen. MbS must be spending sleepless nights these days.
And then there is the artificially-created crisis with Qatar. Again, MbS was the architect of this foolish policy aimed at bringing tiny Qatar to its knees. Instead, Qatar has not only stood its ground, thanks to timely help from Iran and Turkey, MbS has got egg all over his face. Foolishness, however, has no limits especially when underpinned by unbridled power.
It is, however, the Ansarullah drone strikes on Aramco facilities that have caused great panic in Saudi ruling circles. They thought they were invincible against lowly Yemen. The strikes have exposed Saudi vulnerability. By their own public statements, they have been shown to be American puppets. Here is a September 18 tweet from Khalid bin Salman, younger brother of MbS and also deputy defence minister of the Kingdom (MbS being defence minister),
We appreciate the United States’ longstanding position on defending its allies and core interests in the region against unprovoked acts of aggression as affirmed today by the President and Vice President as well as former Presidents including Obama.
The Saudi deputy “defence” minister admits the Kingdom cannot defend itself. It is totally dependent on the US for protection, hence his profuse appreciation of “the United States’ longstanding position on defending its allies and core interests in the region against unprovoked acts of aggression…” The young and equally inexperienced deputy defence minister even resorted to outright lies by claiming the region is subjected to “unprovoked acts of aggression.”
What have Bani Saud been doing in Yemen since March 2015, a war launched by Khalid’s older brother MbS? They have murdered nearly 100,000 Yemenis, most of them civilians, and have caused a cholera epidemic that has afflicted at least one million children — the worst cholera epidemic in history, according to the UN. Almost the entire Yemeni population of 24 million is on the verge of starvation.
Bani Saud, and especially the Bin Salmans expect the Yemenis to surrender to their genocidal policies. The Yemenis refuse to do so and have shown that they are prepared to hit back their tormentors hard. No amount of Saudi propaganda, even if amplified by their paid agents in the US, can obfuscate the fact that MbS and his cohorts are guilty of war crimes.
The rest of the world may overlook these war crimes for material interests but the Yemeni victims are not prepared to suffer in silence. It is payback time and the Saudis are going to pay big time. We may be witnessing the twilight zone of Bani Saud rule.