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Guest Columnist
politicsMiddle East

The MBS era

This micro-column was written by an outside contributor. It was first published in Flagship, our daily newsletter that distills what’s happening in the world into a concise, insightful morning read.

This column was originally published on Oct. 20, 2022.

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Title iconThe Author

Bradley Hope, co-founder of Project Brazen, writes a weekly newsletter called Whale Hunting. He is the author of a book about Mohammed bin Salman.

Title iconThe Micro-column
MBS illustration
Project Brazen/Sonny Liew

After the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 by assassins working directly for Mohammed bin Salman, many thought the Saudi crown prince’s meteoric rise was over. With oil prices low, Joe Biden said he’d only meet MBS’s aging father, a painful snub. Surely, pundits suggested, the Saudi royal family would appoint a more reliable prince.

Enter 2022, war, and high oil prices. Going back on his promise, Biden was forced to fly to Saudi Arabia and fist bump MBS. Despite this show of obeisance, MBS ignored Biden's pleas and went ahead and cut production, further driving up prices.

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The events of the past few weeks are proof that MBS is here to stay. No one is going to remove him easily, no matter how much it upsets people that he'll never be held accountable for Khashoggi’s murder. The crown prince has also shown he is able to outwit democratically elected leaders thanks to the sheer totality of his power, sway over oil prices, and the fact that he is set to be a world leader for decades.

MBS is the harbinger of a new era — one of disintegrating alliances, especially involving countries that feel they were treated as inferiors to world powers.

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