It’s out of the common to see Saudi monarchs conducting local tours, especially in the rural regions of the Kingdom. King Salman’s visit to Ha’il illustrates the importance of consolidating the support at home, as global support for Saudi Arabia voids.
Prior to the tour, US President Donald Trump said Saudi had exploited US-supplied weapons in the Yemen war, which killed thousands of civilians. After the triumph of Democrats in mid-term elections, US House of Representatives started to pressurize US to withdraw its support from the Kingdom.
Considering the international outcry over Jamal Khashoggi’s murder – a Saudi dissident – the House of Saud is witnessing the worst diplomatic crisis after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the US.
Since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman got into power, the Saudi regime has outraged human rights activists, global business community and erstwhile allies, including Canada and Germany.
As a damage-control exercise, King Salman has adopted conventional means to reinstate the domestic loyalty. The king, who was accompanied by Crown Prince MbS on his tour, pardoned some indebted prisoners and announced multi-billion dollar projects in rural areas that are completely isolated in the country.
Today, as Mohammed bin Salman claims to transform the realm his grandfather built, he seems to fall flat on his face. Across the Kingdom, poverty and unemployment rate is rising and opportunities are shrinking. The young Saudis were in an anticipation of major economic and social changes, but nothing has surfaced yet.
Saudi Arabia is intolerant to criticism and activism, which has also created a huge room for frustration among the suppressed Saudis. They are losing faith in their leader, who initially appeared to be a reformer. Instead of uplifting the poor in his Kingdom, he is focusing on consolidating his power.
Though MbS practices the language of reform, it is still unclear that why he risked his country’s reputation to kill a dissident. However, considering the regime’s policy, this barbarous move demonstrates Crown Prince’s urge to project his power.
Even the Kingdom’s purge on Saudi royals and billionaires, including Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, Bakr bin Laden, Turki bin Abdullah etc., has closed avenues for support. In the name of ‘anti- corruption fight’ MbS suppressed people unsupportive of his rule.
Khashoggi’s murder has blighted the hope for egalitarianism and freedom in Saudi Arabia. The ‘civilized’ disguise of MbS has almost collapsed, and the so-called reformer has been exposed in front of the world.