Some members of Saudi Arabia’s ruling family and business elite have expressed frustration with the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin SalmanÂ (MBS) following the largest-ever attack on the kingdom’s oil infrastructure last month.
It has sparked concern among several prominent branches of the ruling Al Saud family, which numbers about 10,000, about the crown prince’s ability to defend and lead the world’s largest oil exporter, according to a senior foreign diplomat and five sources with ties to the royals and business elite, Reuters News Agency reported on Wednesday.
All spoke on condition of anonymity.
The attack has also fanned discontent among some in elite circles who believe the crown prince has sought too tight a grip on power, the sources said.
Some of these people said the event has also fuelled criticism among those who believe he has pursued an overly aggressive stance towards Iran.
“There is a lot of resentment” about the crown prince’s leadership, said one of the sources, a member of the Saudi elite with royal connections. “How were they not able to detect the attack?”
This person added that some people in elite circles are saying they have “no confidence” in the crown prince, an assertion echoed by the four other sources and the senior diplomat.
The crown prince nonetheless has staunch supporters.
A Saudi source within circles loyal to the crown prince said: “The latest events won’t affect him personally as a potential ruler because he is trying to stop the Iranian expansion in the region. This is a patriotic issue, and so he won’t be in danger, at least as long as the father lives.”
A second senior foreign diplomat said ordinary Saudis still want to unite behind MBS as a strong, decisive, dynamic leader.
The Saudi government media office did not respond to detailed questions from Reuters for this article.
The crown prince, during a television interview aired on Sunday by US broadcaster CBS, said that defending Saudi Arabia was difficult because of the kingdom’s large size and the scale of threats it faces.
“It’s challenging to cover all of this fully,” he said.
He also called for “strong and firm” global action to deter Iran but said he preferred a “peaceful solution” to a military one.
At stake is political stability in the world’s largest oil exporter, a key ally of the United States in the Middle East.
The crown prince is officially next in line to the throne to his 83-year-old father, King Salman, and is the de facto ruler of the country. He has pledged to transform the kingdom into a modern state.
The 34-year-old crown prince, who is popular among young Saudis, has received praise at home for easing social restrictions in the conservative Muslim kingdom, granting women more rights and pledging to diversify Saudi Arabia’s oil-dependent economy.
But state control of the media and a crackdown on dissent in the kingdom make it difficult to gauge levels of genuine enthusiasm domestically.
The September 14 attack set ablaze two of state oil giant Saudi Aramco’s plants, initially knocking out half of the kingdom’s oil production – five percent of global oil output.
Saudi Arabia has said Iran was responsible, an assessment that US officials share. Iranian officials have denied involvement.
“The magnitude of these attacks is not lost on the population, nor is the fact that he (the crown prince) is the minister of defence and his brother is deputy defence minister, and yet arguably the country has suffered its largest attack ever and on the crown jewels,” said Neil Quilliam, a senior research fellow at Chatham House, a London-based international affairs think-tank.
“There’s a diminishing confidence in his ability to secure the country – and that’s a consequence of his policies,” said Quilliam, a specialist on Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. MBS oversees foreign, security and defence policy.
The attack has fuelled resentment that has simmered since the crown prince came to power two years ago, sweeping aside rivals to the throne and arresting hundreds of the kingdom’s most prominent figures on corruption allegations.
MBS has seen his reputation overseas suffer from a costly war in Yemen against the Iran-aligned Houthi group that has killed tens of thousands of people and triggered a humanitarian crisis.
He also came under international criticism over the murder a year ago of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate, which the US Central Intelligence Agency has said the crown prince ordered.
The crown prince, during the CBS interview, denied ordering the killing of Khashoggi but said he ultimately bears “full responsibility” as the kingdom’s de facto leader.
Khashoggi was murdered by agents of the Saudi government without authorisation or permission, said Saudi Arabia’s minister of state for foreign affairs, Adel al-Jubeir, during a moderated discussion hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations think-tank in New York on September 24.
Some Saudi critics say MBS’s aggressive foreign policy towards Iran and involvement in the war in Yemen exposed the kingdom to attack, according to four of the sources with ties to the royals and business elite.
They also express frustration that the crown prince was unable to prevent the attacks despite spending hundreds of billions of dollars on defence, according to the five sources and one of the senior diplomats.
Jubeir, the Saudi minister, in his recent remarks in New York, said the kingdom’s air defences have stopped hundreds of ballistic missiles and dozens of drones coming into Saudi Arabia.
He added that the failure to detect the September 14 attack was “being looked at”, but that “it’s very difficult to detect small objects that fly at three hundred feet of altitude”.
Some Saudi elite say the crown prince’s efforts to consolidate control have hurt the kingdom.
One source close to government circles said MBS has installed officials who were generally less experienced than previously.
MBS replaced Mohammed bin Nayef as crown prince and interior minister two years ago.
The former crown prince had nearly two decades of experience in senior roles in the ministry, which was responsible for domestic policing and intelligence.
MBS named a 33-year-old cousin as a replacement, after placing key areas of intelligence and counterterrorism under the royal court’s purview.
The crown prince also removed Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, who had overseen or effectively commanded the kingdom’s elite internal security force, the Saudi Arabian National Guard, since 1996.
The prince was ultimately replaced at the end of last year by then-32-year-old Prince Abdullah bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz, who had been deputy governor of Mecca for less than two years and before that in private business.
The Saudi government media office did not immediately respond to Reuters News Agency’s request for comment addressed to Prince Abdullah.
Saudi insiders and Western diplomats say the family is unlikely to oppose MBS while the king remains alive, recognising that the king is unlikely to turn against his favourite son.
The monarch has delegated most responsibilities of rule to his son but still presides over weekly cabinet meetings and receives foreign dignitaries.
Regardless of the king’s future, the insiders and diplomats say, a challenge to MBS’s authority could be difficult given his hold on the internal security structure.
Some royals view 77-year-old Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, King Salman’s only surviving full brother, as a possible alternative who would have support of family members, the security apparatus and some Western powers, said two of the five sources with ties to Saudi elite.
“They are all looking at Ahmed to see what he does. The family continues to think he is the only one who can save them,” said one prominent businessman.
There is no evidence Prince Ahmed is willing to play that role, according to Saudi watchers.
Prince Ahmed has largely kept a low profile since returning to Riyadh in October 2018 after two and a half months abroad.
During the trip, he appeared to criticize the Saudi leadership while responding to protesters outside a London residence chanting for the downfall of the Al Saud dynasty.
Prince Ahmed was one of only three people on the Allegiance Council, made up of the ruling family’s senior members, who opposed MBS becoming crown prince in 2017, two Saudi sources said at the time.
Prince Ahmed couldn’t be reached for comment by Reuters. One of the five sources with ties to the Saudi elite said that Prince Ahmed’s position on whether he will challenge MBS is that he “will cross that bridge when we come to it”.
Children killed in attack on Cameroonian school
Assailants storm private school in city of Kumba, Southwest Region, killing at least four students.Attackers have opened fire on a private school in Cameroon’s Southwest Region, killing at least four children, according to officials. The unknown assailants stormed the Mother Francisca School in the city of Kumba on Saturday. There was no immediate claim of…
Assailants storm private school in city of Kumba, Southwest Region, killing at least four students.Attackers have opened fire on a private school in Cameroon’s Southwest Region, killing at least four children, according to officials.
The unknown assailants stormed the Mother Francisca School in the city of Kumba on Saturday. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
“They attacked around noon. They found the children in a class and they opened fire on them,” Kumba sub-prefect Ali Anougou told the Reuters news agency.
At least nine other students were wounded and sent to the hospital. There were fears the death toll could rise.
The Associated Press news agency quoted Anougou as blaming separatists who have been fighting the military in parts of western Cameroon for the attack.
Cameroon’s two Anglophone regions – the Northwest and Southwest Regions – are home to a large minority of English speakers in a country where French speakers are the overwhelming majority – a situation that is the legacy of the decolonisation of western Africa by France and Britain more than 60 years ago.
In late 2016, long-standing complaints of political and economic discrimination against English speakers by the central government spilled over when lawyers, students and teachers began calling for reforms.
The government’s lethal response to the protests provoked rebels to declare in 2017 independence for a region they call “Ambazonia”, triggering a stronger crackdown by the authorities.
Both sides have since been accused of committing atrocities in a conflict that has killed some 3,000 people and forced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes.
Anglophone secessionists have imposed curfews and closed schools as part of their protest against President Paul Biya’s government.
Last year, officials blamed separatists for kidnapping dozens of schoolchildren, charges the separatists denied.
Vietnamese envoy hails KRCS’ global humanitarian efforts
KRCS Chairman Dr Hilal Al-Sayer meets Vietnamese Ambassador to Kuwait Trinh Minh Manh. – KUNAKUWAIT: Vietnamese Ambassador to Kuwait Trinh Minh Manh hailed the humanitarian efforts of Kuwait Red Crescent Society (KRCS) around the world. The remarks were made to KUNA yesterday after the ambassador’s meeting with KRCS Chairman Dr Hilal Al-Sayer. He expressed appreciation…
KRCS Chairman Dr Hilal Al-Sayer meets Vietnamese Ambassador to Kuwait Trinh Minh Manh. – KUNAKUWAIT: Vietnamese Ambassador to Kuwait Trinh Minh Manh hailed the humanitarian efforts of Kuwait Red Crescent Society (KRCS) around the world. The remarks were made to KUNA yesterday after the ambassador’s meeting with KRCS Chairman Dr Hilal Al-Sayer. He expressed appreciation for the society’s aid to the Vietnamese Embassy during the coronavirus crisis.
The ambassador added that they discussed providing his country with aid to face the impact of the recent floods and landslides, considered to be the worst in decades. Sayer said he was pleased with the ambassador’s visit and affirmed that KRCS will continue exerting humanitarian efforts to aid those affected by natural disasters and crises everywhere. – KUNA
Pain, frustration: Expats lose jobs to new rules and COVID
File photos show foreign workers applying to leave Kuwait during the amnesty. – Photos by Yasser Al-ZayyatBy Chidi Emmanuel After working for 24 years in Kuwait, Charley Lyon received the dreaded letter that many expats fear amid the economic downturn, coronavirus pandemic and new residency laws. Lyon is among thousands of expat workers in the…
File photos show foreign workers applying to leave Kuwait during the amnesty. – Photos by Yasser Al-ZayyatBy Chidi Emmanuel
After working for 24 years in Kuwait, Charley Lyon received the dreaded letter that many expats fear amid the economic downturn, coronavirus pandemic and new residency laws. Lyon is among thousands of expat workers in the government sector who were being laid off.
As part of its Kuwaitization policy, Kuwait is replacing expats with locals in the government sector. The government has also stopped issuing work permits to expats over 60 years of age without a university degree. These new rules have had a huge impact on the lives of thousands of expats in the country, leaving many with no choice but to pack their bags and leave.
Gulf countries are facing an exodus of foreign workers as the coronavirus pandemic pushes out foreign workers. In the midst of the COVID-19 and financial crunch, the National Assembly approved a draft law to slash expat numbers over the next five years.
As the budget deficit widens and economic conditions worsen, Kuwait is grappling with an economic downturn as COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc around the world. The combined shock of collapsing oil prices, the pandemic and joblessness is reshaping labor policies in the region, thus bringing anti-foreigner sentiments to the fore again.
While Kuwait’s expats struggle to secure their jobs, the government is calling for an increase in workforce nationalization in government entities. “Why will foreigners take the jobs meant for us (Kuwaitis)? They can work anywhere – but not in the ministries,” argued Abdullah, a 26-year-old Kuwaiti.
Buttressing Abdullah’s viewpoint, Fatma, an unemployed Kuwaiti woman, complained of the difficulty in competing with foreign workers for jobs in the private sector. “Foreign workers can work longer for less, unlike us Kuwaitis. So most companies prefer to hire non-Kuwaitis. This leaves us with only one sector (the public sector). I think this is why the government introduced Kuwaitization, so as to give unemployed Kuwaitis an opportunity,” she explained.
For Lyon, justice and fairness should override anti-expat sentiments. “It is understandable that ministries would give preference to locals for jobs during these tough times, but it would be fair to consider the efforts of the old staff who have put in their best to build this country,” Lyon, 61, and some of his co-workers who were laid off recently lamented, as they worry about their future.
Expats make up the majority of the population of Kuwait. Residency is tied to employment and Kuwait does not easily offer citizenship routes to non-nationals. “We have been here (in Kuwait) legally for over 20 years. It will be difficult to go back and start afresh in our home countries. More so, Kuwait’s residency is linked to the work permit – when you lose your job, you automatically lose your residency. I worry about my children who are still in school. The three-month notice will not be enough to relocate them,” Mustapha, an Egyptian expat who recently lost his job, said in dismay.
Abdurazak Hamad, an African expat, is in a dilemma. “I feel miserable leaving my family behind. I don’t want to go alone, but I can’t make my wife quit her KD 450 job since she is now the sole breadwinner. Starting afresh in my home country at this age (62) will be very difficult. I wish I can get a permit (residency) to stay here with my family,” said Hamad, who was recently sacked.