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Saudi Arabia crown prince Mohammed bin Salman on yacht for security

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Mohammed bin Salman
Saudi
Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud at UN
headquarters in New York City, March 27, 2018.

REUTERS/Amir Levy

  • Mohammed bin Salman, the 32-year-old crown prince of
    Saudi Arabia, has been touted as a reformer and embraced by the
    US.
  • But Salman’s policies at home and abroad have
    reportedly angered people inside the kingdom.
  • Amid what is reported to be growing ire with the crown
    prince, he is said to be spending more time on his superyacht
    for security.

Saudi Arabian Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s elevation to
crown prince in 2017 set the stage for him to
pursue aggressive policies that included confrontations with many
rivals around the region.

But changes to the royal line of succession and decisions
by the 32-year-old crown prince
at home and abroad have undermined the kingdom’s longstanding
stability and left Salman in doubt about his own safety, according to Bruce Riedel,
director of the Brookings Institution’s Intelligence
Project.

Salman is reportedly aware of the growing enmity.

“Fearing for his security, the crown prince is said to spend many
nights on his half-billion-dollar yacht moored in Jeddah,” Riedel
wrote for Al-Monitor, where he is a columnist.


Yacht Superyacht Serene
The
superyacht Serene moored in Auckland, New Zealand, on January 21,
2015.

Phil Walter/Getty
Images


Salman reportedly dropped a half-billion dollars on the
440-foot-long yacht, named Serene, in late 2016, after spotting
it while vacationing in the south of France.

He bought it from a Russian billionaire who moved out the day the
deal was signed, and the vessel includes two
helipads, an indoor climbing wall, a fully equipped spa, and
three swimming pools.

But Salman bought it as he helped push severe austerity at home,
including major spending cuts and a freeze on government
contracts. Such spending is often used to quell dissent.

“It’s a floating palace longer than a football field and with
many perks,” Riedel wrote of the yacht. “It is also a potential
escape hatch.”

‘A foolish and dangerous approach’


Mohammed bin Salman and Trump
Saudi Arabian Crown Prince
Mohammed bin Salman with President Donald Trump in the Oval
Office of the White House.


Pool/Getty
Images



The main foreign-policy issues that have raised ire toward
Salman are the now four-year-old war in Yemen — Salman’s
signature initiative — and the blockade of Qatar.

Criticism of Salman’s bloody and disastrous war in Yemen,
which has subjected many Yemenis to famine and disease, has been
brewing inside Saudi Arabia for months, according to
Riedel.

A video of Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz — the half-brother of
the current Saudi king, who is Salman’s father — publicly blaming
Salman for the war went viral in the kingdom this month.

Saudi Arabia’s turn on Qatar reportedly came as a surprise
to many US officials, frustrating them even as US
President Donald Trump castigated the Qataris. The blockade has
been unwelcome within Saudi Arabia — one cleric has been arrested
and faces execution for criticizing it — and has split the Gulf
Cooperation Council, Riedel wrote.

Salman’s roundup of powerful businessmen and members of the
royal family last fall may have been his biggest domestic
miscalculation
. It spooked investors and led to capital
flight, diminishing confidence in Salman’s ability to manage
economic issues.


Jim Mattis Mohammed bin Salman
Defense
Secretary Jim Mattis welcomes Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin
Salman to the Pentagon, March 22, 2018.

AP Photo/Cliff Owen

Among the dozens of businessmen and princes who were
arrested was Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah, the leader of the Saudi
national guard, the kingdom’s premier fighting force, which,
along with his campaign in Yemen, may further alienate Salman
from the military.

The removal of Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah was seen as likely to stir
discontent
, and Salman’s moves, particularly the roundup,
have fed the impression inside the kingdom of Salman “as someone
who has disturbed the status quo for the sake of massive personal
enrichment and political aggrandizement,” according to Rosie Bsheer, a
history professor at Yale.

Salman remains the most likely heir as long as his father is
alive, but his actions have helped make the kingdom the least
stable its been in 50 years, according to Riedel. Should the
current king, now 81 years old, die in the near future,
succession could be disputed, and the process to appoint the next
king could turn violent.

“The Trump administration has given Saudi Arabia a blank check
and supports its war in Yemen,” Riedel wrote. “The crown prince has
been touted by the White House. It’s a foolish and dangerous
approach.”

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