’Blood and Oil’ Co-authors: MBS Only Cares Fir His Image, is ‘Allergic’ to Political Reform
By Staff, OCBS News
OCBS News’ Intelligence Matters host Michael Morell interviewed Bradley Hope and Justin Scheck, the co-authors of “Blood and Oil: Mohammed bin Salman's Ruthless Quest for Global Power,” about the leadership style and strategic decision-making of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman [MBS].
Hope and Scheck offered their assessment of MBS’ "dichotomy", explaining how he has behaved as both a great reformer and ruthless dictator. They also discuss his likely awareness of the murder of dissident Jamal Khashoggi, his views on political reform, and attempts to diversify the Saudi economy.
On MBS’ reaction to the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, Scheck said: "I think he was very surprised by the outrage and by the fact that people in these other countries that he considers as important were going to harp so much on the death of one Saudi citizen.”
“This is a Saudi citizen he viewed as a traitor. 'Why is this such a big deal?' He told someone, he blurted out, 'Oh now the world sees me as a journalist killer.' His image is very important to him and because he's not the king yet, he is the Crown Prince, and creating this image of someone who is fit to be king is very important. He was extremely concerned and surprised that he is now defined in the eyes of many foreign leaders as the guy he who killed the journalist," Scheck added.
Commenting on MBS’ “allergy” to political reform, Hope said: "Mohammed bin Salman, despite being seen as a reformer, in the Western media and also among Saudi youth, he's completely allergic to anything close to political reform. I've never in any of my reporting heard of him having anything close to a discussion of political reforms . . . He is completely politically illiberal, but he's socially liberal. And that is something that everyone needs to know when they're trying to think about Mohammed bin Salman."
Regarding the Saudi kingdom’s future of economic development, Scheck explained that if MBS focuses on economic development, there are huge risks.
“If Saudi Arabia does not end its near total reliance on oil revenue, there's not really a great future for it. It's hard to envision the future of a country that doesn't have a great source of revenue, has not enough fresh water for its people, virtually no arable land.”
Scheck went on to say that MBS has talked a lot about how he's going to do that, but so far, the things that we've seen him do to get to a real economy haven't been effective.
“Investing close to 50 billion dollars in foreign tech companies hasn't produced meaningful dividends for the kingdom. But beyond that, it hasn't produced a clear roadmap for how those tech investments are somehow going to fuel that economy."