Read: August 2022
Inspiration: What is the background of MBS and how he got to his current position in Saudi Arabia?
Written with the help of ChatGPT, below is a brief summary to understand what is covered in the book.
“MBS: The Rise to Power of Mohammed bin Salman, published in 2020 by journalist Ben Hubbard, examines the life and rise to power of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, known commonly as MBS. The book discusses MBS’s background and family life, as well as his rapid ascent to the position of Crown Prince in 2017. Hubbard explores MBS’s vision for the future of Saudi Arabia, which includes plans for economic reform and modernisation, and examines the challenges that he has faced in implementing these plans. The book also covers MBS’s foreign policy, including his role in the war in Yemen and the dispute with Qatar, and discusses the controversies surrounding his leadership, including the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the arrest of Saudi activists. Overall, MBS is a thorough and insightful examination of the life and reign of a key figure in Middle Eastern politics.
Direct from my original book log, below are my unedited notes (abbreviations and misspellings included) to show how I take notes as I read.
MBS’ rise not preordained but early 30s lead Saudi through hugely consequential period via technology and repression of dissidents (fueled by oil), MBS grandpa was son 25 of 36 for his dad but put in charge of Riyadh, MBS was eldest son of Fahda (eldest son of MBS grandpa), many deaths in family and MBS as young one stick by his dad who took over as governor in Riyadh, MBS was sixth son of the 25th son of the founding king Abdulaziz, MBS first defense minister when father take throne post abdulaziz death 2015 (MBN was heir, MBS second), MBN was close with US/CIA in counterterrorism efforts, MBZ crown prince of abu dhabi advocate for MBS over MBN, MBS introduce big econ reforms to saudi, Saudi is a Wahhabism state—strict Muslim state (birthdays frowned upon, no music, women covered always, no open practice of other faiths), MBS and many others deny exist of Wahhabism (just day true Islam), The Commission (religious police) enforced rules, unrelated men and women cannot sit together publicly, fatwas are religious opinions (e.g. iran ayatollah want to kill Rushdie), MBS in 2016 spend $1bn per year on foreign expertise, Mckinsey/BCG brought it to plan Vision for SA future which MBS commission, MBS cut off power of clerics/Commission as stunt development, Khashoggi was with MBS through rise—earlier close to Bin Laden before turn to hate, Khashoggi household name in arab world for views on reform/democracy and ties to leaders/US, Yemen war start post Arab Spring 2012 when Hadi installed by US/SA then Houthis revolt and overthrow, Saudis fight vs Houthis to bring Hadi back with US weapons and get reckless (Houthis believe US killing them), Obama accelerated arms sales to SA early/mid 2010s, Iran back Yemen and US/Iran strike deal which anger SA, Obama and Ben Rhodes increasingly critical of SA, MBS and Kushner get along very well—MBS realize can help with focus on Israel and get what he wants from Trump/Kushner, June 2017 MBN strong-armed to abdicate role to MBS—king want MBS as crown prince and MBN to house arrest, Khashoggi critical of Vision 2030 and trump—told to stop tweeting by Saudi officials, Mckinsey produce reports of social media reactions to SA policies which SA use to arrest dissidents (twitter control huge for MBS), 2017/18 MBS arrest in mass (in SA and abroad even with extradition), thinkers/academics/activists all jailed if not in line (MBS had Khashoggi top of mind and want to lure to SA), late 2017 MBS coerce PM Hariri of Lebanon to resign abruptly and condemn Iran and Hezbollah (plotted by SA to help in Yemen), SA say Hariri not hostage but world get suspicious (kept for 17 days, came back broken but back as PM, SA claim free whole time), 2017 day after Hariri resign MBS call 350 princes/businessmen/wealthy to Ritz and detain for corruption crackdown (interrogate to collect $ back, all called to Riyadh on MBS invite), some beaten, Al Saud (royal family) inc is name of siphoning business of royals, seized $106bn at ritz in assets, MBS 2017 introduce entertainment concerts/movies to society with many concerned (but wahhabism obey ruler), Saud al-Qahtani MBS’ media czar (former hacker), as driving ban lifted 2018 MBS still arrest activists who try to claim credit (not want to give idea activism worked), Khashoggi murder at SA embassy in Turkey denied by MBS then change accounts as details leak—put on trail team of 15 agents but MBS global reputation diminished as business leaders distance (2018 killing changed path forward), econ diversification challengrd by covid—still so dependent on oil, aramco ipo muted, 60% of population under 30 which pressures expectations, MBS mix of opening up rights for women/entertainment/tech but then crack down viciously on dissidents staining his reputation