KUDOS TO GERMANY’S spooks. Back in December 2015, the German foreign intelligence agency, BND, distributed a one-and-a-half-page memo to various media outlets titled: “Saudi Arabia — Sunni regional power torn between foreign policy paradigm change and domestic policy consolidation.” The document was pretty astonishing, both in its undiplomatic bluntness and remarkable prescience.
“The current cautious diplomatic stance of senior members of the Saudi royal family will be replaced by an impulsive intervention policy,” the memo warned, focusing on the role of Mohammed bin Salman, who had been appointed as deputy crown prince and defense minister at the age of 30 earlier that year.
Both MBS, as he has come to be known, and his elderly father King Salman, the BND analysts wrote, want Saudi Arabia to be seen as “the leader of the Arab world” with a foreign policy built on “a strong military component.” Yet the memo also pointed out that the consolidation of so much power in a single young prince’s hands “harbors a latent risk that in seeking to establish himself in the line of succession in his father’s lifetime, he may overreach,” adding: “Relations with friendly and above all allied countries in the region could be overstretched.”
And so it has come to pass. In fact, despite being repudiated at the time by a German government more concerned about diplomatic and commercial relations with Riyadh, the BND warning turned out to be eerily prophetic.
Consider recent events in the Gulf. Can you get more “impulsive” than rounding up 11 fellow princes, including one of the world’s richest menand the commander of the national guard, and holding them at the Ritz Carlton on charges of corruption?
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