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Muhammad Bin Salman’s Failed Attempt To Win Prestige

Al-Jazeera, Qatar, August 29

Like many of predecessors, Mohammad Bin Salman, the Saudi Crown Prince, has spent considerable efforts preparing himself for the thrown that he will one day inherent. To this end, he spent the past two years taking a more active role in managing the kingdom’s affairs, particularly in the realm of foreign policy. Over the past year, he has become the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia. But while he tried to position himself as a political visionary, Bin Salman promoted initiatives that have dismally failed. First, he launched a rash war on Yemen that has implicated Saudi Arabia and its allies in the Gulf in a dangerous and prolonged campaign with no end in sight. The 33-year-old prince believed that he could defeat the Houthi militias and restore the rule of ousted president Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi within just a few weeks. Recently, over three years later, and after more than 13,000 innocent civilians have lost their lives in Yemen as a result of this campaign, the Houthi militias continue to endure and strengthen their foothold in Yemen. Second, in Lebanon, Bin Salman hoped to curtail Hizbullah’s influence in local politics. By exerting pressure on Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, who holds a dual Lebanese-Saudi citizenship, Bin Salman hoped to convince the Lebanese government to designate Hizbullah as a terrorist group and ban it from parliament. This move not merely failed, but actually backfired against Bin Salman. During the most recent parliamentary elections held in Lebanon in May, Hizbullah succeeded in boosting its clout by significantly growing its share of seats in the legislature. In fact, Hariri now depends on Hizbullah for his political survival. Third, and perhaps most importantly, Bin Salman miserably failed to understand the situation in Syria. For months, he poured copious sums of money on funding and training Syrian opposition forces, only to witness them get crushed by Assad’s regime. Today, in an attempt to hide this deep humiliation, Saudi Arabia joined a long list of countries that called Putin and Assad to end the bloodshed in Syria through a permanent ceasefire. Salman’s only success to date has been on his country’s relations with the United States. The Crown Prince took advantage of U.S. President Donald Trump’s ascendance into power in order to restore the kingdom’s ties with America. Bin Salman managed to sign a few trade and military deals with his American counterparts, and even gained Washington’s backing in crowning Riyadh as a so-called leader of the Arab world. Yet this has done little to promote Bin Salman’s prestige anywhere outside the corridors of the White House. Under Bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy has been a chain of failed projects that only ended up weakening the Crown Prince, empowering his enemies, and strengthening Israel’s stance in the region. –Udnan abu Ammar

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