“Like the war in Yemen, the isolation of Qatar is an effort to subdue a recalcitrant neighbor to fall in line with Saudi policies. With his royal succession now assured, the young prince is likely to take even greater risks”.
In December 2015, a memo from Germany’s foreign intelligence service argued that Saudi Arabia’s new leaders were destabilizing the Middle East. The memo said King Salman had replaced the kingdom’s decades-long, cautious foreign policy with “an impulsive policy of intervention.” The Germans singled out the King’s favored son, Mohammed bin Salman, who had quickly amassed tremendous power as deputy crown prince and defense minister, in addition to economic czar. The memo warned that concentration of so much power in the hands of a young inexperienced prince posed a “latent danger that, in an attempt to establish himself in the royal succession while his father is still alive, he could overreach.” The brash 31-year-old prince secured his place in the royal succession, and is now virtually assured of becoming king, possibly for decades. Bin Salman’s ascent entrenches Saudi Arabia’s newly emboldened foreign policy in the Middle East --its aggressive posture toward its chief regional rival, Iran--. The younger Salman has been the major force behind the kingdom's biggest gambles: the Saudi-led war in Yemen; the recent campaign to isolate Qatar; and an overhaul of the Saudi economy intended to wean it off its dependence on oil. Bin Salman’s consolidation of power could mean more conflict and instability in the region—he’s dismissed any prospect of negotiating with Iran, saying the Islamic Republic seeks to dominate the Muslim world and displace Saudi Arabia. “We know we are a major target for the Iranian regime (...) [We] will work so the battle is there in Iran and not in Saudi Arabia”. The prince’s elevation also brings the House of Saud closer to the Trump administration. Trump has taken a liking to the young prince, who’s also struck up an alliance with Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law. As the German intelligence memo put it: “Saudi Arabia wants to prove that it is ready to take unprecedented military, financial, and political risks in order not to fall into a disadvantageous position in the region.”