MBS: The Rise to Power of Mohammed Bin Salman
British by birth, American by naturalization, Simon Henderson started in journalism as a trainee at the BBC before becoming its correspondent in Pakistan. Joining the Financial Times a year later, he was promptly sent to Iran to cover the 1979 Islamic revolution and went back again for the U.S. embassy hostage crisis. He now analyzes the Gulf states, energy, and the nuclear programs of Iran and Pakistan as the Baker fellow and director of the Bernstein Program on Gulf and Energy Policy at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
I have written about the Saudi royal family – the House of Saud – for nearly 30 years. My first in-depth study was After King Fahd: Succession in Saudi Arabia. I followed this up in 2009 with After King Abdullah: Succession in Saudi Arabia. My latest study, A Fifty-Year Reign? MBS and the Future of Saudi Arabia published in 2019, examines the circumstances by which Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman may, or may not, become king.
Whatever happens the kingdom is changing, with social liberalization, a less central role for the Islamic religious hierarchy, and attempts to move the economy away from its dependence on oil. But MbS is an autocrat with a streak of ruthlessness, as illustrated by the detention and torture of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, and the murder and dismemberment of the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
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They write: “Mohammed decided to build not just a city but a mini-kingdom. It would have cutting-edge technology and medical care, all powered by solar energy rather than oil.” The vision statement for the project reads: “The land of the future, where the greatest minds and best talents are empowered to embody pioneering ideas and exceed boundaries in a world inspired by imagination.”
This latest volume, published in 2009, looks at Saudi Arabia and the transition which was already taking place before the current King Salman took the throne and before anybody had heard of MbS.
The civil case against Saudi Arabia for alleged complicity with the 19 hijackers, 15 of whom were Saudi, continues, albeit with little publicity. That is likely to change. Osama bin Laden’s own legal reckoning was less formal of course – the Saudi whose name has become synonymous with terrorism died in a hail of bullets from U.S. Navy SEALs. (I can also recommend the movie of that event Zero Dark Thirty.)
We think you will like The Oil Kings: How the U.S., Iran, and Saudi Arabia Changed the Balance of Power in the Middle East, America's Kingdom: Mythmaking on the Saudi Oil Frontier, and Cities of Salt if you like this list.
From Randall's list on The best books on American (mis)adventure in the Middle East.
A highly readable tome, Cooper’s account of how the oil politics of the 1970s revolutionized U.S. foreign policy and the Persian Gulf is a must-read for anyone who wants to know more about the political landscape of the Middle East. Cooper traces the personal interactions among the Shah of Iran, Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, Gerald Ford, and the House of Saud in the midst of the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, the consequent oil embargo, the formation of OPEC, and the early stirrings of revolution in Iran. Perhaps most helpful, this book dispels many misperceptions about Iran under the Shah while also showing how the United States played an integral role in weakening his regime prior to the 1979 revolution.
From Steven's list on The best books for understanding the Middle East.
Vitalis' meticulously researched volume is about Saudi Arabia and the United States. In lucid prose, he makes the controversial case that American oil prospectors in the 20th century recreated the patterns of domination that dominated the exploitation of resources in the American West in Saudi Arabia. The argument smashes long-held truths and myths about the origins of the U.S.-Saudi relationship.
From Simon's list on The best books about the oil industry.
I love novels that view the world through the eyes of cultures that are different from my own. In Cities of Salt, we see the arrival of US oil companies in the Middle East through the eyes of one of the oasis communities that lived there, in relative peace and isolation, before the oil wells were drilled. The narrative traces how men and women’s lives are first interrupted, and then disrupted, confounded, and corrupted by the oil industry and the vast sums of money it generated. The novel is the first of a trilogy, set in a kingdom that is never named. The fact that Abdelrahman Munif (1933-2004) was an oil economist, deprived of his citizenship of Saudi Arabia and driven into exile for his political views, gives us a big clue about which country he was thinking of.