Dynastical conflict in Saudi Arabia. What will happen to the Kingdom in the near future?
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is one of the most mysterious states of the world. Women can’t stay at its territory not covering their head and with open parts of body. For any “spiritual” fault the vice squad can hit you by sticks, and if a woman is unfaithful to her husband she will be beaten by stones till the death. The same time the level of life in this country competes with Switzerland, Germany and the USA. Upon the birth every national of the Saudi Arabia gets bank deposit for the amount in 300 thousand dollars. There are no Christian churches in this country.
It seems that this list of horrified and contradictory rules can come only from long ago and Saudi Arabia must exist minimum for several centuries. But actually it is a very young state, which was established at the beginning of XX century by Abdulaziz, the first King from the dynasty of Saud.
The scholar in Asian studies and analyst Anatoly Nesmiyan offers his own evaluation of the current situation in Saudi Arabia in view of ruined negotiations in Doha regarding freezing of the oil production.
The Monarchy in Saudi Arabia
Details of the ruined meeting in Doha are being published. The details themselves are not much interesting – the failure of the meeting was predetermined a few days ago when Saudi Arabia turned its position to almost unacceptable harshly and without any explanations. But some details of inter-saudi fight in these messages and circumstances look quite interesting:
The negotiations about oil production’s freezing in Doha were failed because of pressure of the Deputy Crown prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman. Financial Times writes that the Prince before the beginning of the negotiations called to his country delegation and ordered to come back. In spite of delegation refused to leave the Doha the negotiations were failed. As the magazine writes the situation showed that the Oil minister of Saudi Arabia Ali Al-Naimi has much less power than king’s family.
The King Salman and his son Prince Mohammed
The Prince Mohammed bin Salman is the king’s son, but he is only third person in the state. The Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef and his position are not disputed yet. He became the Crown Prince after the Prince Muqrin (who was temporary appointed) was “dismissed” from this position. Prince Muqrin has never had any chances to become a king – he is a son of the first king Abdulaziz and his foreign concubine, he has no powerful clan leaders to support him, but from the professional and staffing point of view the status of the Prince Muqrin was and still stays quite significant.
Nevertheless, there is very severe fight inside of the dynasty. The question about the change of the succession principle has being decided. After the King Salman it will be changed for sure without prior arrangement – the question is how.
Before the present day all the kings of Saudi Arabia were brothers, sons of one father – the founder of the dynasty Abdelaziz ibn Saud. Now there are no brothers left – there is no one who could pretend to the throne. Salman is the last one.
After Salman there will be new generation of princes – except that they are missing the next generation after present kings. This is like for example after present Queen of England Elizabeth the crown would be inherited not by Charles, the today inheritor, but his son William. But England is a constitutional monarchy that is why there is no principal value of such reshuffle. For the Saudi Arabia the question is more serious – it is absolute monarchy, though the monarch has some essential restrictions. In particular one of restrictions is an agnatic principle of inheritance when the order of succession of the throne prefers the monarch’s younger brother, but not his son, and then it is passed between their inheritors – circle wise.
The king Abluaziz ibn Saud
The system of succession created by Abdulaziz warranted its stability in the situation of Saudi Arabia development – Abdulazize’s wives were representatives of different tribes’ groups of the Kingdom that is why they all got access to the power through their inheritors (approximately 60 people)
However in next generations blood roots became so curious that belonging to the clans already had not blood but political character – there were different marriages made (of course divorces also took place) which created difficult and not always stable balance. The total quantity of princes in this dynasty amounts approximately 15 thousand people in all seven or eight generations and Abdulazize’s descendants. Is it clear that not all can pretend to the throne however there is a group accounting approximately 60-70 persons who have the right to the crown.
The King Salman surrounded by potential inheritors
The change of the succession becomes an urgent need which is able to bring stability in the growing turbulence. It is fatal by the way for the Kingdom which contains of four historical regions of the half-island, these regions have no other reasons to be attracted to each other except the common dynasty. The Chaos in the House of Saud will destroy the whole Saudi Arabia. Today there are a lot of external players who are interested in such scenario including powerful forces in America. In this connection the main task of the King Salman is the provision of moving to new generation, and to new modern and stable system of succession.
Methods of the dynastical crisis way out
There are two ways how he can achieve it. First one – to provide to his clan and family the access to the power through the inheritance of the crow from father to son. But he must pay to all the rest clans and tribe groups such generous payoff that he probably may not have it at all or the amount of payoff will be higher than the profit for all his clan from the absolute power. The second way is to create for his clan such powerful advantages that the succession question would be not actual at all. The decision will be made de facto.
According to the fact that the son of the King Mohammed became the second vice-premier (first vice-premier is always Crown prince) and that Mohammed bin Salman has focused the army and all main economic and finance instruments in his arms, he has chosen the second way. Which is clearly liked not by everybody, to tell the truth nobody likes it.
The crown prince Mohammed bun Hayef
It is possible that the decision of the Prince Mohammed about demonstrative failure of arrangements in Doha has not only external political but also internal political dimensions. According to the refuse of Saudi delegation to leave Doha it didn’t dare to disobey political orders of the king’s son, but it had enough assets to resist him in minor decisions. And only Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who is the head of Ministry of Internal Affairs at the same time can be such asset. However as we are talking about resistance to the king’s son, the crown prince can set against the first and third person in the state only serious union with other princes, who have assets which can be matched with the king’s family assets. It is likely that we are talking about the union of the crown prince Mohammad and the Prince Mitaba, the son of former King Abdalla – the commander of National Guard. Such union has chances for the resistance to the king’s clan for sure.
It is likely that structuring of the conflict inside of Saudi dynasty is either finished or close to its finish – there are two powerful groupings, and each of them has a chance. The king will have to promote the decision about the change of succession that is why his task is very difficult. Wahhabism has very negative attitude to any innovations (bida), not only in religious but also in secular space.
There are tradition and disaffection of clans behind the crown prince and Mitab. Only understanding that the possibility of the Kingdom’s break-up is too close and that detractors from the USA will assist in this case for sure for example with the help if IS (is forbidden in Russia), saves these groupings from the war. IS has serious problem with access to the resources and when there is at least small chaos in Saudi Arabia, the leaders of the Islamic State, who are familiar with Middle Eastern setup (of course not their “foot solder” Khalif Abu Bakr) can use this opportunity.
This is why we hardly will see the fight of the dynasty’s Al Saud clans “at the surface”. However the second position of the Kingdom – the crown prince’s position is a highlighter. If the king doesn’t manage to appoint his son as a crown prince – he will lose the fight. If he manage to do it – he will win. In the first case the dynasty will stay in the unstable situation as the contradiction which causes it is not canceled. In the second case the situation will look more stable and will mean that king managed to make a bargain and to make a competitive clans to agree with his decision.