SHAFAQNA – Ever since Saudi Arabia authorized the beheading of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a prominent and well-respected cleric and pro-democracy activist, thus prompting worldwide outrage, politicians, media and experts have come to warn against the belligerent trend the kingdom has adopted.
At the center of such a shift in domestic and foreign policy sits one man, Prince Mohammad bin Salman, King Salman’s favorite son, Deputy Prince, and Defense Minister. The de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia since his father, the king is reportedly suffering from Dementia, the young prince has revolutionized the way the state has conducted its affairs, often choosing rash actions, over carefully weighed decisions.
In an article for The Independent, Bill Law wrote the following: “When Mohammed bin Salman was just 12 he began sitting in on meetings led by his father Salman, the then governor of Saudi Arabia’s Riyadh Province. Some 17 years later, at 29 and already the world’s youngest defence minister, he plunged his country into a brutal war in Yemen with no end in sight. Now the kingdom of Saudi Arabia is jousting dangerously with its regional foe Iran, led by a man seemingly in a big hurry to become the Middle East’s most powerful leader.”
While Western capitals and their echo chambers, the media remain cautious in their criticism, fear is there – fear that inexperience and hastiness could lead to a dangerous standoff in the Middle East. Thankfully Iran is not playing into Saudi Arabia’s provocations, rather its leadership has worked tirelessly to defuse tensions, and return instead to diplomacy to smooth disagreements.
Even Ayatollah Sistani, a leading voice for Shia Islam, has maintained his composure when denouncing the murder of Sheikh al-Nimr, offering words of peace and patience before injustice, rather than fan hatred and calls for vengeful retribution.
Speaking of Prince bin Salman’s political style, Jason Tuvey, a Middle East economist at Capital Economics said: “He is quite belligerent.”
On his expose of Prince bin Salman, Bill Law continued: “In a widely circulated letter last summer, enemies within the ruling family decried the arrogance of the young prince, even going so far as to call for his ousting along with his father and Mohammed bin Nayef. But those calls have led nowhere and MbS continues to ride a crest of popular support in Saudi Arabia. The question remains, though, how far his impetuous nature will take him in the conflict with Iran. It is not outside the realm of possibility that this brilliant, brash young man casting himself in his grandfather’s mould as a Sunni warrior may be weighing up the options, may be thinking of a military strike against Shia Iran – a frightening thought in a region already riven by sectarian war.”#
While Law is mirroring those fears and sentiments Western capitals have been harboring against Saudi Arabia, he failed to understand that THOSE sectarian tensions everyone is referring to, are in fact manufactured. If tensions there are, they have been architected by the kingdom’s policies and projection of its takfir fundamentalism.
Shia Islam again has not played into the same narrative Wahhabis have. Shia Islam has instead championed interfaith solidarity and Islam’s tradition of compassion and social order – it is actually Shia Islam’ stand against the violence of Wahhabism which has incensed the kingdom, and turned Iran into a enemy of choice.