As Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s (MBS) contacts in the U.S. continue, his interesting statements, television and magazine interviews are also coming through, one after the other. According to some, his statements are over his head, but they are not ordinary.
Lastly, in the latest lengthy interview he gave to Jeffry Goldberg at The Atlantic magazine, despite making statements that will be discussed quite a bit, what he said about Israel drew the most attention.
There was nothing new about what he said concerning Israel. Just the fact that they were coming out of his mouth could be considered as new. Hence, I will not focus on this topic here and evaluate his other statements. There are two reasons for this. First, the statements MBS made concern not only the some 30 million Muslims living in Saudi Arabia, but the entire Muslim world – as a matter of fact, the world in general. Secondly, almost all of the topics I discussed in my last article were discussed in this new interview as well.
Why are Mohammed bin Salman’s answers significant?
It is clear that Atlantic magazine editor and successful journalist Jeffry Goldberg prepared some of the questions and answers he directed to MBS in advance. However, the answers he got to some of the skillfully asked questions that he directed to MBS spontaneously time to time bear the clues of the next 50 years. Disregarding his naiveté, which I mentioned in my article recently and Goldberg reminded him, MBS’s speeches must be followed and analyzed carefully. If, with simple math, the crown prince soon takes to the throne and lives as long as his father – unless the region sees major changes – he will be on the agenda for at least half a century. As a matter of fact, he is going to rule a region of high geopolitics and, what’s more important, a region that is Muslims’ qiblah, the direction of prayer.
MBS lists his known dreams in the interview. Not everything he says is on point, some contradict the realities of his country. He is aware of this and is displaying his determination to fight. Regardless of the conditions, it is obvious he has chosen a reformist mission for himself. As a matter of fact, there are threats among his answers, which can only be understood in his own internal public. Even when rejecting the term “Wahhabi,” like the Saudi scholars and salafs, he assumes the role of being the Luther of Wahhabism.
In some of the answers, he gives messages that were studied while back in his country. He talks about the “devil’s triangle,” which he sees as a threat both in the present and in the future. This part is what draws my attention the most:
Encoding of the future in Mohammed bin Salman’s messages
The Iranian regime is on one leg of the devil’s triangle. In the last quarter century, there appears to be nothing new about the Saudi-Iranian tension. He refers to the Iranian regime’s expectations of a Mahdi who will spread the Shiite ideology since 1979 and he says that this is a threat to the whole world.
The foundation of the animosity between Saudi Arabia and Iran goes all the way back to the rejecting the Shiite faith, which contradicts Mohammad bin Abddulwahhab’s fundamental idea of “tawhid” (the singularity of God) and most importantly, to the Karbala raid of the Wahhabis in the early 19th century. The crown prince, who disregards this historic aspect, threatens the world through Iran and reveals that the Saudi-Iran conflict is going to remain permanent from now on too. So, what should we make out of this? The tensions in the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran will not decline any time soon, and the Saudis are going to continue to promote this as a global issue rather than their own historic enmity.
It is actually clear that father and son, who want to form a nation-state that is deduced to being from Saudi Arabia instead of keeping a religious state appearance, want to take advantage of the existence of an ideological enemy. To put it simply, they see the presence of the Iranian regime as an important tool in forming the Saudi identity. Yet, they will continue to present Iran as a country that threatens the world and particularly the Sunni Islamic world, not one that threatens them only. This signals that, rather than close combat, a cold war or proxy wars will continue between the two sides. Naturally, the countries in the region will be classified into groups as those that are close-distant or enemies with Iran or those that cooperate with it. It closely concerns Turkey as well in this respect. As a matter of fact, there is no doubt that this likely approach is going to be on the agenda of Turkey, Iran and Russia too.
According to MBS, the second leg of the devil’s triangle is the Muslim Brotherhood. According to him, they want to form a shadow caliphate through democratic methods and establish a Muslim empire. The crown prince, who did not make any comment other than this, obviously disregards the Saudi policies that existed in relation to the Muslim Brotherhood until Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi’s military coup in Egypt. He acts like he has no idea that the Gulf countries used the Muslim Brotherhood for a long time as a shield against the pan-Arabism policies that were pumped out of Egypt. He also ignores the Muslim Brotherhood’s affinity with Mohammed Abdulwahhab’s “fundamental views” outside of action and practice. This simple statement shows that he sees the Muslim Brotherhood as an alternative to the kingdom/emirate regimes in the region. As it can be assumed from this approach that the Egyptian and Saudi administrations will be cooperating more, the reason behind the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) headache can also be diagnosed. One other issue is that in the case that they are unable to protect their own monarchy, the outside world is going to be reminded of what the likely alternative might be and influence them through their nightmares.
MBS places organizations like al-Qaida and Daesh in the third leg of the devil’s triangle – terrorist groups that nobody would object to. MBS and Goldberg actually know how effective the Wahhabi ideology has been in the spread of these organizations, which are the result of modern Salafi movements. However, in the interview, Goldberg’s question is left unanswered with a counter-question. Even though MBS’s statements, when declaring that “there is no such thing as Wahhabism,” are clever, they do not reflect the reality. But I still see an optimistic air here. And this is due to MBS propounding the opinion that he will no longer support the modern Salafi movements that have given rise to “takfirism,” the act of a Muslim accusing another Muslim of disbelief, and various terrorist organizations. At least, based on these statements, it will be possible to expect this from him. There is no doubt that this will be a positive step toward normalization in the Muslim world.
Based on my readership’s request, I was going to write about “Wahhabism in the Ottoman Empire.” But the current affairs would not allow me to do so. I will discuss it in another article. But I am going to do it, not in light of Mr. Hemper’s fake memories, but rather with real documents.