Economy

Why Saudis Swapped Crown Prince: It's The Economy, Stupid

Mohammed bin Salman in Hanged Zhou, China, last year
Mohammed bin Salman in Hanged Zhou, China, last year
Meghan L. O'Sullivan

The latest big news out of the Middle East is that Saudi Arabian King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has ousted the crown prince and installed his 31-year-old son, Mohammed bin Salman, in that position. While the world waits to see more of the reaction from Saudis and others in the region, a few quick thoughts come to my mind.

First, the news feels stunning because of its significance; if MbS (as the new crown prince is known) becomes king, he will be the first monarch who is not a son of King Abdulaziz al Saud, the founder of Saudi Arabia.

Yet the news is hardly unexpected. Since King Salman elevated MbS to deputy crown prince in 2015, those inside the kingdom and close observers from the outside have debated the odds around various scenarios through which the young prince might eventually come to power. More tangibly, a series of royal decrees in April made a raft of personnel adjustments. Although not really registering on radar screens in the West, these changes weakened the power base of the then-Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef. They seeded loyalists to the younger prince, in many of the regional governor posts across the country.

Second, intentionally or not, the king is sending a message about his — and therefore the country's — priorities in removing Mohammed bin Nayef from all his posts, including minister of interior. That message is that fighting terrorism is not the highest priority of the country, nor maybe even in the top tier. Nayef was rightly recognized and appreciated — particularly by the U.S. — for his work fighting terrorism inside and outside the kingdom, and was a key partner of the U.S.

To be fair, Saudi Arabia probably does have bigger and more pressing problems right now, particularly reforming its oil-dominated economy, an effort in which the new crown prince has undisputedly taken the lead, with both vision and energy. But the U.S. administration should be concerned, particularly given the laser-like focus on counterterrorism cooperation by President Donald Trump during his May visit to the kingdom.

This is not the last shoe to drop.

Finally, this promotion of MbS to crown prince, while for the moment ending much of the speculation around succession, is not the last shoe to drop in this saga. In what would be yet another huge departure from past practices, I would put my money on King Salman relinquishing the throne to his son in the next year or two, assuming all goes reasonably well in the interim. (A big if, given that the Saudis are leading an ugly war in Yemen and the effort to isolate Qatar diplomatically and economically only seems to be deepening.) If so, it would be only the second time that a Saudi king has abdicated the throne; King Saud was forced to do so in 1964 under pressure from the royal family and religious leadership.

On occasion, the age and infirmity of a king has meant that a crown prince has effectively ruled the kingdom. Then-crown prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz was the most important person in the kingdom for years after his brother King Fahd had a stroke in 1995, although Abdullah did not become king until a decade later. But no monarch other than Saud has left the throne in favor of another in the 85-year history of the kingdom.

But don't be surprised if King Salman proves himself different, doing everything he can to ensure that the potentially fraught transition to the next generation of Saudi leaders is not only smooth, but results in the enthronement of his favorite son.

*O'Sullivan is a Bloomberg columnist and the Jeane Kirkpatrick Professor of the Practice of International Affairs at Harvard University's Kennedy School. She served on the National Security Council from 2004 to 2007, and was deputy national security adviser for Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Spencer Tunick Nude Installation in Israel

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Salam!*

Welcome to Monday, where the UK pays homage to slain MP David Amess, Myanmar frees thousands of prisoners, and Facebook gets ready to build its "metaverse." Please fasten your seatbelts: Worldcrunch also takes stock of the long-lasting effects — good and bad — the pandemic has had on the air travel industry.

[*Azeri - Azerbaijan]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

Myanmar to free political prisoners: Myanmar's junta chief Min Aung Hlaing has announced the release of 5,636 prisoners who had been jailed for protesting the coup that ousted the civilian government in February 2021.

• Powerful Haiti gang behind the kidnapping of U.S. missionaries: The notorious 400 Mawozo gang is believed to be behind the kidnapping in Haiti of a group of Christian missionaries, including 16 U.S. citizens and one Canadian. The brazen kidnapping on Saturday comes as crime is spiking since the killing of President Jovenel Moise in July.

• UK to pay tribute to David Amess: British lawmakers will pay homage in parliament to colleague David Amess, who was stabbed to death Friday in what was described by the police as a "terrorist incident." Officers arrested a 25-year-old suspect whose father, Harbi Ali Kullane, worked as a media adviser to a former prime minister of Somalia.

• COVID update: Russia has registered more than 34,000 cases of new infections in the past 24 hours, a new record since the start of the pandemic. Meanwhile, police in the northeast Italian city of Trieste used water cannons to clear striking dockworkers protesting Italy's new requirements that all employees be vaccinated.

• At least 26 killed in floods in India: Torrential rain has triggered floods and landslides in India's southern coastal state of Kerala, killing at least 26 people.

• Facebook to hire 10,000 in EU to develop "metaverse": The U.S. social media giant plans to hire 10,000 workers in the European Union over the next five years to build a "metaverse," a virtual reality version of the internet that the company touts as the future.

Punishing parents for children's bad behavior: After limiting gaming hours for minors, China is now considering legislation to reprimand parents if their children exhibit "very bad behavior" or commit crimes.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

Colombian daily El Espectador dedicates its front page to Alex Saab, "owner of the secrets" of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. The Colombian businessman, wanted by U.S. authorities for allegedly laundering money on behalf of Venezuela's government, has been extradited from Cape Verde to the U.S. where he is scheduled to appear in court today.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

4.9%

China's economy registered its slowest pace in a year as the country faces a looming energy crisis with power shortages and increasing pressure on its property sector. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the period between July-September rose 4.9%, the weakest numbers since the third quarter of 2020 and significantly lower than forecasts. The world's second-largest economy faces a debt crisis linked to the China Evergrande Group debt crisis, while energy shortfalls have dropped factory output to its weakest since early 2020, when heavy COVID-19 curbs were in place.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

7 ways the pandemic may change the airline industry for good

Will flying be greener? More comfortable? Less frequent? As the world eyes a post-COVID reality, we look at ways the airline industry has been changing through a pandemic that has devastated air travel.

⛽ Cleaner aviation fuel: With air travel responsible for roughly 12% of all CO2 emissions from transport, and stricter international regulation on the horizon, the industry is increasingly seeking sustainable alternatives to petroleum-based fuel. In Germany, state broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports that the world's first factory producing CO2-neutral kerosene recently started operations in the town of Wertle, in Lower Saxony. The plant, for which Lufthansa is set to become the pilot customer, will produce CO2-neutral kerosene through a circular production cycle incorporating sustainable and green energy sources and raw materials

.🛃 Smoother check-in: The pandemic has also accelerated the shift towards contactless traveling, with more airports harnessing the power of biometrics — such as facial recognition or fever screening — to reduce touchpoints and human contact. Similar technology can also be used to more efficiently scan physical objects, such as explosive detection. Ultimately, passengers will be able to "check-in" and go through a security screening anywhere at the airports, removing queues and bottlenecks.

✈️ The billion-dollar question: Will we fly less? At the end of the day, even with all these (mostly positive) changes that we've seen take shape over the past 18 months, the industry faces major uncertainty about whether air travel will ever return to the pre-COVID levels. Not only are people wary about being in crowded and closed airplanes, but the worth of long-distance business travel, in particular, is being questioned as many have seen that meetings can function remotely, via Zoom and other online apps.


➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

"The crimes committed that night are unforgivable for the Republic."

— Emmanuel Macron became the first French president to commemorate the killing of as many as 200 Algerian independence protesters by Parisian police in 1961. For 40 years, French officials ignored the massacre, which took place a year before Algeria gained its independence from France after an eight-year war. In 2012, French President François Hollande acknowledged the killings for the first time on a visit to Algeria, and Macron took it further by attending Sunday's commemoration at the site where the events happened in the French capital. Still, many had hoped the French President would go further and take responsibility for a "state massacre," for a crime many historians consider the most violent repression of a peaceful demonstration in post-War Europe.

📈💥  IN OTHER NEWS

​Low trust, high risk: The global rise of violence targeting politicians

The deadly stabbing of British Parliament Member David Amess confirms an ongoing study on trust and governance in democracies around the world: It's bad. In The Conversation, James Weinberg — the study's author and a lecturer in Political Behavior at the University of Sheffield — writes:

⏪ The assassination of Amess, who was stabbed to death in his constituency on Friday, is a tragic moment for democracy. What makes it even more devastating is that such a catastrophic failure is not without precedent or predictability. Labour MP Jo Cox was shot at her constituency surgery in 2016. Before her, another Labour MP, Stephen Timms, survived a stabbing in 2010. And Andrew Pennington, a Gloucestershire county councilor, died in a frenzied attack in 2001 while trying to protect local Liberal Democrat MP Nigel Jones.

☝️ Beyond these critical junctures in the public debate about politicians' safety, elected representatives must live with an increasingly insidious level of popular cynicism that threatens violence on an almost daily basis.

🇬🇧🇳🇿🇿🇦 Not only are these experiences of abuse or threats of physical violence felt across both sides of the political aisle in the UK — they also appear to be growing more common in other democratic contexts where the climate of politics has been presumed to be both calmer and more volatile, from New Zealand to South Africa.


Read the full piece from The Conversation, now on Worldcrunch.com

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

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