Indeed, it is the "Absolute Power" of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia!

The sound of authenticity in the modern-day

In his interview with The Atlantic, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman discussed several important issues, including the reforms in Saudi Arabia at various levels, the Saudi economy and its local identity, and Saudi Arabia's international relations with countries regionally and globally. In order to give the Crown Prince's interview, the care and attention it deserves, this paper provides a reading of his ideas, clarifications, and strategies.

by Hasan Ismaik
  • Publisher – STRATEGIECS
  • Release Date – Mar 14, 2022

I have closely reviewed the "Ultimate Power" by Graeme Wood in The Atlantic on March 3, 2022, and the article written by Karen Attiah published by the Washington Post on March 6 under the title: " The Atlantic’s elevation of MBS is an insult to journalism," and the article Wood hastened to write on March 7 on The Atlantic, with a lengthy headline: " Of Course Journalists Should Interview Autocrats: Anyone who tells you otherwise does not understand the purpose of journalism."

Media and Politics: Moral Dilemma and Monopoly of Truth

It cannot be overemphasized to say after I have read all of the above, that a large part of the world of politics today, mainly what is focused on in the media, is an area of ​​competition that sometimes neglects the professional values ​​and principles regulating the media work, and those involved in it take pragmatic and unclear ways to achieve certain goals, without the slightest concern for the negative consequences that may result from this matter. For the life of me, the absence, and sometimes, neglect of these values and principles are not only limited to politicians, but also to the media that supports their policies, whose professionals may be forced to take paths fraught with misinformation and sacrifice the message of the press and its goal of revealing the truth, in return for attracting more readers and seeking to influence them for certain purposes linked to the agendas of their political, or media institutions, or both.

From my readings of these three articles, I was assured once again that there is a large gap that is still difficult to bridge, between what is sometimes published in the Western media and the truth that these media claim to search for and present. What a paradox it is that we oppress the Arab press and accuse it of deterioration and that it is a tool that reflects the political aspirations of the Arab rulers, while the Western press is also infected with the taint of the tyranny of the political position and private agendas that sometimes offend the truth and freedom of speech.

In this context, I think that the most dangerous thing that the media does when it relinquishes its professionalism: is attempting to delude others of one truth, and it is the only one it possesses. Hence, it works to devote it from a specific view and in one perspective, and according to the value and moral narrative of its narrators, and thus, exclude any different opinion or perspective. In reality, however, it is obvious that there is no single truth, and that every individual, group, or nation defines its facts within the framework of its existence, and the culture, customs, customs, and beliefs that this existence entails. I think that there is no greater betrayal of the truth than that one avoids or hides it, just because it does not fit his system of standards and requirements, and does not accept the differences of others with him.

Therefore, in pursuit of attaining the truth, I must say that the interview was given by Mohammed bin Salman, Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to The Atlantic, on which the current American media debate today, is too important to summarize its impact and contents in this controversy taking place between Both Graeme Wood (the representative of The Atlantic in the dialogue with the Crown Prince), Karen Attiah, and others. I call on the Arabs, in general, and the concerned Saudi people, in particular, to give the Crown Prince’s words the care and attention they deserve, and not pay attention to everything that the Western press is trying to promote by devoting a state of controversy and conflict in opinions. The reality is that “The Locals Know Best,” thus, the Saudis and Arabs are fully aware of the importance of the ideas, clarifications, and strategies mentioned by the Crown Prince, as for the goals of the Western media in addressing them, they serve only the interests of the West's interior, just like most of their foreign policies.

I do not discredit the importance of the West's democratic and liberal values system, and to the contrary, I am not ashamed to express my admiration and treasuring its success in building their states and societies. Yet, I am committed to a critical stance of rejecting Western rulings and standards in dealing with us: Arabs and Muslims, from outside this system, especially in their insistence that what works for them is suitable for others, and that what does not agree with their whims does not deserve their attention and recognition. Hereunder, I will explain, in full detail, what the Western perspective considered, from the words of the Crown Prince, as dictatorship and tyranny.

A Talk of The Importance of War!

First, despite the intense polarization that drew the world’s attention and focus on what the political scene is witnessing today as a result of the Russia and Ukraine war in the heart of Europe, which made all other events and news mere margins and unimportant details, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s interview with The Atlantic (the Saudi Press Agency published the Arabic version of it, and the original text will be published early next April) was able to attract the attention of followers, analysts, and politicians, because of the points that the young prince touched on, and statements that will represent an important compass for Saudi internal affairs, and Riyadh's regional and international relations at multiple levels: internal change, foreign policy, economic and security dimensions in the region. The conversation came, as it seems, in an open dialogue in which the interviewer (Graeme Wood) did not inform his host of the questions in advance, and the prince did not have any specific points that had been prepared in advance. Some of these questions were clear, and even provocative, while others were vague and unexpected, in addition, to a set of others imposed by the course of the conversation and its ramifications, or which The Atlantic journalist deduced from the conversation with the Prince or wanted to include them in it.

With this diversity in questions, their levels, objectives and the precise details that they explored, and in front of the openness and transparency, in addition to, the ease shown by the Saudi Crown Prince, the importance of the topics included in the dialogue emerged as important as the way they were addressed. At the top of these topics were: reform in Saudi Arabia at its various levels, combating corruption, social development, religious reform, and a return to tolerant Islam; In addition to the new Saudi economy and its local identity; Saudi Arabia’s international relations with countries and powers regionally and globally; and of course, the "Vision 2030" occupied a significant share of the prince's dialogue, after this vision became a document of the new social contract through which the Saudis aspire to the future, to build its bases on the foundations of authenticity and national values, and then rise from them to the heart of modernity and contemporary. So, the prince seemed decisive and clear in asserting that the "Vision 2030" project "will never fail, and no one on this planet has the power to make it fail."

In the spring of 2016, the young prince announced the launch of this huge project, aimed above all at reducing the Kingdom’s dependence on oil, the thing that requires the beginning of diversifying the sources of the Saudi economy by adding active and productive sectors to it, not least the establishing of tourism and entertainment, and smart “future” cities. Since it was first proposed, this project has faced a lot of controversies, and skepticism, sometimes driven by bad faith! Or perhaps it was a miscalculation when some thought it was imaginary and unattainable in light of the reality of the Kingdom and its complex and great historical heritage, without realizing that this reality itself is what gives Saudi Arabia a rich and distinctive set of strengths that are not available to other countries, as these points represent precisely the sources of the philosophy on which “Vision 2030” was based, and on top of which comes the strategic location of the Kingdom, its Arab depth, its global religious position, its social and cultural richness, and of course its economic power, etc. The "vision" summarized these points with three pillars: a vital society, a thriving economy, and an ambitious nation.

For the second man in the Kingdom, and for a young man in a society that about 70% of its citizens are less than forty years old, the vision he adopted, as a reform and development plan for the largest Asian Arab state, had to be characterized by comprehensiveness, which has become the essential condition for managing the modern State. It is not just pure power or authority or an abundance of wealth and production, but rather it is all of these elements combined and interconnected with each other in the social, cultural, and economic areas in which citizens achieve their general will, which is guaranteed and preserved for them by the existence of the state.

Economy in the 2030 Vision

Competing economic growth represents a pivotal goal that guarantees the legitimacy and realization of other goals. Therefore, the central objective of “Vision 2030” was to change the classical structure of the Saudi economy, by seeking vigorous steps towards reducing the proportion of Saudi exports of oil to 50%, which will only be achieved by raising the volume of non-oil exports to the same proportion. Today, the Saudi leadership realizes that the implications of achieving this does not stop at the limits of GDP growth only, but will be reflected in reducing the unemployment rate and raising the Kingdom’s ranking in the logistics services index from 49th to 25th globally, and the first regionally. This will also contribute, according to what the vision promises, to bring about a qualitative shift in the way the state manages foreign reserves and uses them to increase revenues. Those who know the Saudi economy closely are fully aware that reducing the kingdom's dependence on oil to the above-mentioned percentage will represent a revolution of renewal and economic change that has been long-awaited and talked about during the past three decades.

From an economic view, "Vision 2030" also aimed to expand access to mortgages in conjunction with the development of an accessible and profitable financial services sector, by encouraging citizens to invest internally and increasing the number of companies listed on the local stock exchange. As expected, the Saudis did not miss the opportunity, as the Kingdom's banks sold a record number of new mortgages amounting to 46.7 billion riyals in the first quarter of 2021, and the US credit rating agency S&P Global Ratings expects the Saudi mortgage market to rise by 30% annually during the next two years.

On the other hand, and to complement these new economic strategies, it was necessary to start transforming the concept of the State from the sponsor and interfering economically to stabilizing its role as a guard and authority, the thing that requires reducing the public sectors concerned with the service part, in the future. It is expected that this reduction will begin in the energy sector, through the privatization of the National Grid SA, and the trend towards generating at least 30% of the country's domestic energy supply from solar and renewable energy. A transformation, if undertaken, would increase the number of independent energy producers and create a more competitive market for different types of renewable energy. Although this shift, according to press reports and studies, will initially be painful for the Saudis who are accustomed to low energy prices, it will help achieve the 2060 goal of net-zero emissions.

Governance and Administrative Development

In the Crown Prince's speech with The Atlantic, the reader is aware of the importance that he gives to administrative development and reform, especially in light of the qualitative, confident, and careful change that he is leading in the country. Although the Prince did not address this topic in a specific and independent manner, the reference to it was present in the discussion of several topics. This reflects the launch of the Crown Prince’s project in administrative reform and the development of governance mechanisms from the importance of achieving this condition to ensure the accomplishment of the desired levels of economic growth; as the fight against Corruption, developing laws, simplifying procedures, and providing legal and legal guarantees are elements that cannot be ignored in preparing an economic environment that is attractive to investors, especially in the recent era, where pioneering economic growth can only be achieved with the participation of foreign investments and the localization of their assets locally.

Accordingly, the prince's interests are directed towards enhancing efficiency within the government and modernizing the tools of public administration, through a comprehensive structural reform process. The prince is aware of the difficulty of accelerating the achievement of these goals, especially in light of the traditional structures that have dominated the administrative work of the State for decades, but his satisfaction and reassurance with what has been achieved so far seem to indicate the possibility of reaching the required level in this regard, and in a relatively record time. The Prince did not fail to praise the efforts of the Kingdom's employees and officials, and appreciate their enthusiasm and leadership of this change, each in his position and based on his responsibilities.

Tourism and Entertainment: A Deeper Understanding of Comprehensive Development

During the past five years, some premature and incomplete views of the Kingdom’s efforts in the entertainment and domestic tourism have focused on expressions of astonishment sometimes, and false denunciations at other times, based on prejudices or a stereotyped image of Saudi Arabia as, in the minds of the promoters of this view, is far from modernity,  or because the kingdom’s religious position presupposes that all Saudis, and on all the country’s lands that extend widely in the four directions, to live a special and closed  life limited to asceticism, worship, isolation and “some extremism!” In fact, I do not exonerate the intentions of many who try to perpetuate this view, nor do I excuse their ignorance if they claim ignorance of Saudi society, its way of life, and its openness to the world.

I say this in confidence because I know the Saudis very well, as I lived among them for several years, and often visit the country, either for work or tourism. In each of my visits, I see the extent of change and development among all segments of society. For decades, the Saudis have not stopped communicating with the most advanced abroad in the world, and a large number of their young men and women have completed their education in major international universities, particularly American and British, and they are fluent in foreign languages, familiar with the spirit of Western civilization, and able to delve, positively or negatively, into its details and form a critical stance of it. A large ratio of Saudi society supports the aspirations of the Crown Prince and Vision 2030 and trusts the promising future that awaits the country in light of its realization.

In fact, as I noticed from the dialogue with The Atlantic, the prince is aware of this existing gap that creates the contradiction between two parties: the preconceived and stereotypical image of Saudi society, and its dynamic and modern reality, which is considered a cornerstone of the "Vision 2030". The prince also realizes that part of the reasons for the occurrence of this gap is due to the circumstances and considerations that accompanied the founding of the third Saudi state, whose “Asabiyyah” (social cohesion), according to Ibn Khaldun in his famous introduction, was linked to the alliance made by the founding king with the religious reformist movement in his time, and then continued as a tradition for decades of the rule of the sons: “This situation may have lasted too long, but it must be reformed,” the young prince thinks, in light of the change of times, a century and two decades after the success of his grandfather, King Abdulaziz, in restoring Riyadh and launching the third Saudi state project in 1902.

On the other hand, the Crown Prince recognizes the fact that the essence of 2030 is purely economic, and that Saudi Arabia has another source besides oil that should be considered as a more sustainable source of national income; i.e. tourism that has been neglected for a long time in a country that can attract millions of tourists annually, with its archaeological sites, unique nature, perfect beaches, and a temperate climate in the times when frost strikes the northern hemisphere. So there is one element left for the Kingdom to be able to invest this source, I mean preparing the infrastructure of cities and tourist facilities, then providing the administrative facilities required for travel transactions and tourist residence instructions, and updating its laws. Today, the ambition of the Kingdom's leadership in this field is no secret, as it works to double the registration of archaeological sites in UNESCO, in addition to, its quest to establish an Islamic museum that will be the largest in the world.

As for the General Entertainment Authority, the Crown Prince does not pay any attention to all the opinions that fake surprise and denunciation, and although he is aware of the motives of those behind them, the economic aspect is what he focuses on in this regard, especially since he is familiar with the statistics that monitor what the Saudis pay abroad for tourism and entertainment every year, and he fully believes in Saudi Arabia’s entitlement to the amounts spent by its citizens, which are equivalent to, and sometimes exceed, the budgets of existing countries (it reached about $30 billion). Therefore, it was worth, in the mind of the Crown Prince, for the world to come for the Saudis, instead of Saudis traveling every year to see it.

An Insightful Social Revolution

In contrast to social revolutions that are usually visionless and unbridled, which focus on destroying what they do not want but are ignorant of what they want, the Crown Prince is leading the country for a major social change, supported by a clear vision of what the Saudis want and seek, without destroying any of the previous social building blocks, but rather building upon and maintain them in a renewed national identity, combining in its core the two sides of authenticity and modernity.

Therefore, the young prince’s numerous assurances were that the change that the Saudis seek is for their own sake, and to be satisfied with themselves and their civilized role, not to please an outside observer, or to consent to a standard adopted by others. Thus, the Crown Prince stresses that social changes will remain faithful to the country's culture, which derives its vitality and values from its three roots: Islam, tribal customs, and Arab civilization. On the other hand, the prince denounces any external pressure on Saudi Arabia towards change, and explicitly draws the attention of his guest: "In fact, if you try to pressure us about something we already believe in, you are just making it difficult for us to implement it."

In this context, comes the development of the Personal Status Law, Saudis' hottest topic, which was approved by the Council of Ministers on March 8, 2022. This law, which the Crown Prince revealed its importance in preserving the family as the basic component of society, and its commitment to the legitimacy of human rights and its values, in addition to the Council of Senior Scholars’ confirmation that the new personal status system “is derived from the Qur’an and Sunnah, and is based on close foundations, lofty principles, and organized legislation, which came to confirm the depth, strength, authority, and sovereignty of the law in the Kingdom, and the immunity of litigation procedures to achieve community safety, and family stability.”

In fact, the Kingdom has already embarked on a series of mega projects to create an open, tolerant society that looks forward to the future, and at the same time draws on its ancient heritage and past. To support the efforts made to implement comprehensive social and legislative reforms, the government works to support the effectiveness of these reforms by enhancing and improving transparency and accountability in order to achieve the aspirations of the ambitious nation, its leadership and its citizens in the first place.

Indeed, the results of this reform process have begun to appear in various fields. For example, Saudi women have begun to assume new roles in the labor market, and their participation in the economic movement has improved throughout the country. The percentage of working women in the Kingdom increased from 15% in 2018 to 25% in 2021, according to Foreign Affairs, which added that a similar trend appears in the rest of the demographics, where the rate of participation in the labor force increased among men (20-24 years old) by 15% from 2018 to 55% by the end of 2021.

Hence, Vision 2030 is not limited to the economic aspect alone but includes creating a high degree of social liberalization to enable the growth of the entertainment and tourism industries, as well as wide-ranging reforms of the education system, which is traditionally a stronghold for clerics in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and therefore I do not rule out that the Saudi education system will step, soon, an important and long-awaited step: that is the introduction of philosophical studies in the university and pre-university educational stages as well, especially since the Saudi intellectual has come to realize today the importance of philosophy and its central role, which cannot be ignored or replaced, in encouraging critical thought and developing creative thinking in all fields of knowledge and behavior: social, scientific, political, economic and artistic.

Religious reform: Where does change begin?

In his dialogue with to The Atlantic, the prince touched upon astonishing religious and legislative issues, yet I will discuss the most important premises on which the prince bases the official position on religious reform that the kingdom needs today.

First, the prince expresses a clear critical position regarding the concept of "moderate Islam", and refuses that Saudi Arabia adoption to it, saying in a rhetorical manner aimed at the religious extremism and its supporters: “That term would make terrorists and extremists happy.”  It suggests that “we in Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries are changing Islam into something new, which is not true.” On the other hand, the prince adopts the most equitable position of truth, according to which the Islamic religion is one in essence and cannot be changed: there is no moderate Islam, extremist Islam, or an excessive third Islam.

Secondly, it is inferred from the prince’s words that the desired reform is the one of our understanding of Islam, and no one may change Islam to moderate or non-moderate, and according to the words of the Crown Prince: “We are going back to the core, back to pure Islam” as practiced by Muhammad and his four successors." In fact, this prince's words are in essence with the basic principles on which the religious reform project was based at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century, before the extremists drifted towards deepening the gap between religion and society.

Third, and based on the foregoing, the Prince shows a firm stance against those who advocate extremism and terrorism, because they have hijacked the Islamic religion, distorted it according to their interests, and tried to impose their way on the general Muslims. This is a danger that threatens not only faith, otherwise the extremists and their beliefs can be left behind, but rather threatens the individuals, society, and humanity, in general. Therefore, the prince was keen not to show any soft or lenient stance towards extremism, in contrast to what many politicians in the region are doing.

In general, the Crown Prince’s view on religious reform does not reflect the position of the researcher who is occupied with issues and intellectual details, despite his knowledge of them, but rather the position of the political and national leader who focuses his efforts on general strategies for what this reform should be, and is fully aware of the legitimate responsibility entrusted to the guardian and his representative in this regard. The Head of the State is "the head of the Islamic establishment is wali al-amr, the ruler", as he put it. As for the fatwa councils, their mission is to provide advice and leave the final decision to the owner of the matter. This is what the prince wanted to clarify unambiguously.

The Position on the Ruling System: Frankness and Reassurance

The Prince praises American democracy, and appreciates how wonderful it is (for Americans) because it was one of the reasons for America's development and global economic power. In the same vein, the Crown Prince praises the successful constitutional monarchies, the success of which is measured by the growth and civilization they provide to their peoples. Then, with the same confidence and reassurance, the Crown Prince answers the question of his interlocutor about the Saudi monarchy, and confirms that the Saudi monarchy is absolute, “this is how it was founded and this is how our society was made,” and this is also a wonderful system for the state and society, because it made the civilization and growth that the country is witnessing today.

At the same time, the Crown Prince clarifies the rules, customs, and traditions governing this system: Absolute monarchy does not mean that the king “wakes up tomorrow and does what he likes,” as he puts it. Rather, there is a basic system of governance that defines the way to manage the country’s affairs, and clearly stipulates the existence of three powers: the executive led by the King in his capacity as prime minister, and the organizational and judicial that are independent of the executive authority. The prince explains this to his guest, citing that the royal will to allow women to drive cars has been in place since 2015, but this was not actually achieved until 2017, as the king and all authorities work within fixed laws, and according to what is approved by the Basic Law of Governance, and before the people.

The Prince makes some important observations in the same context, as he appreciates the importance of the constitutional monarchy and any other political system that serves the society in which it exists. It was created by the history of Saudi Arabia and its tribal social structures and Islamic culture. This monarchy system extends for six hundred years, and over three periods. Saudi society consists of tribes, clans, and local towns that all agree on this system, and like them are members of the royal family, who are numbered in thousands, and from them the Allegiance Council is formed with its members who place their trust in the King and his Crown Prince to preserve the kingdom and its system. Therefore, any step any direction other than this is considered a betrayal of the Allegiance Council, the family, and the people.

On this, the prince confirms the features of the Saudi monarchy that distinguish it from the absolute monarchies that Europe knew. He denies that there is royal blood, for the royal family is like the people, and its members marry the common people, and they are only responsible for it, work to serve it, and preserve its unity.

 “Vision 2030”: The Debate of Authenticity and Modernity

Everything that Vision 2030 has achieved so far, and what it will achieve in the coming years, will have a clear impact on changing the form of relations between the State and its citizens, politically, socially, as well as, economically. At the same time, it will change the nature of the partnership between the government and the clergy. The Crown Prince has no intention of complacency with anyone who opens the door to extremism and extremists who have "abducted and distorted the Islamic religion." This position of the prince does not stem from an ideological structure only, but also patriotism, as the “spirit” of the Saudi state is based on Islam, Arabism, and the tribal social system.

Based on the three main pillars: a vibrant society, a thriving economy, and an ambitious country, the “modern” prince does not nor the Saudis want to present: “projects copied from other places, but rather we want to add something new to the world,” something purely Saudi whose time has come.

And because the prince realizes that reaching this final goal - which regulates everything below it - is not only dependent on the internal policies of the Kingdom, but also on what surrounds it, and on its relations and roles in the region and beyond. Saudi Arabia has its global ambitions that will only be achieved by starting from a stable ground based on a stable and secure Middle Eastern society. This prompts the Kingdom to deal with its immediate and wider neighborhood firmly and flexibly as well, and with high independence without relying only on its traditional alliance with the United States.

And about the Politics, too

On the front of immediate neighborhood, the Crown Prince reiterated the constants of the GCC system, and the commitment of its members towards each other. I.e. no country shall take any political, economic or security action, that would harm other members of the Council, and other than that, every state is free to do what serves its interests under the Council's comprehensive roof. The Prince also expressed a state of satisfaction and delight with the recent Gulf reconciliation and to things being back on track, especially since this not only serves Saudi Arabia and its ambitions, but is reflected on all members by providing capabilities and forces that support the new aspirations of the leaders and peoples of the GCC states.

As always Riyadh’s approach, the crown prince did not close the door on any of his neighbors in the region. So, he proceeded to emphasize, in a diplomatic and balanced way, that: “[Iran and Saudi Arabia] are neighbors. Neighbors forever. We cannot get rid of them, and they can't get rid of us” and added that Saudi Arabia does not want to see a "weak nuclear deal with Iran", as any weak nuclear agreement will lead to the same result of possessing nuclear bombs, "which we do not want," says the crown prince, adding, however, to express his hope that talks between the two countries can reach "a good position and chart a bright future" for both. In this context, it seems that Tehran has received these statements positively, as Iranian Foreign Minister Amir Abdollahian told the official Iranian news agency: "The recent statements of a high-ranking Saudi official show his desire to establish bilateral relations with Iran, and we welcome that."

What I want to point out about here is that similar statements and calls have been repeated during the past four or five years, and they are usually welcomed by the opposite party, but the repetition of these statements means that nothing has actually been achieved so far, and this explains, in my opinion, one of the most important principles by which Saudi foreign policy deals with Tehran: the neighbor and “arch nemesis” as well, and I mean the extreme caution and the slowness shown by the Kingdom in this regard, and monitoring Tehran’s compatibility with its statements, especially since the latter has not yet stopped using its power and influence to foment chaos and try to change the balance in the region. Therefore, Riyadh is always waiting for a welcome coupled with tangible facts, when the two sides will be able to sit down for a direct and actual dialogue.

On a parallel level, the "Saudi Press Agency" quoted the Crown Prince telling "The Atlantic" that Israel could become a "potential ally" of Saudi Arabia, but that this also depends on reaching a permanent solution with the Palestinians. As in Tehran, the prince's words were widely celebrated on many official Israeli pages.

Throughout its history, Saudi Arabia has been committed to Arab issues, to the extent that some say that support for the Palestinian state is woven into the kingdom's identity as a state, but it has always remained a peace-loving State. The Saudi leaders realize that normalizing relations with Israel has a great weight, and therefore it will not be free. Rather, it should bring benefits to the Palestinians ahead of other people of the region, which the war machine and the continuation of the conflict may not obtain.

From a strategic point of view, Saudi Arabia seeks a greater role on the map of global modernity, and based on the focus on internal investment in the Kingdom. Among the most important ambitions of "Vision 2030" in this regard is the development of the country's Red Sea coast through tourism projects and a "smart city". Therefore, Israel, which also overlooks the Red Sea and is a pioneer in technology and water desalination, appears to be a useful and welcomed partner, but this is conditioned of normalizing its relationship with the Palestinians first. Of course, achieving the above will require a great deal of political investment in all the issues of the region: Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon, and others, and high diplomatic skill to achieve a balance between a new alliance with Israel and an emerging relationship with the Tehran regime, which claims to be committed to Israel's destruction.

At the End: An Implicit Message

In light of all of the above, it seems that the Saudi crown prince, who was described by his American interlocutor Graeme Wood as a "charming" and "smart" , is fully aware of all the geopolitical threats that the region suffers from, and the sharp polarization that the world is experiencing that is exacerbated by the ongoing war between Ukraine and Russia, on one hand and the decline of the American role in the Middle East, and other places, on the other. The young prince said, “We have a long and historic relationship with America, and for us, in Saudi Arabia, our goal is to preserve and strengthen it. We have political, economic, security, defense, commercial interests, and we have many interests, and we have a great opportunity to advance all of these interests.” We also have a great opportunity to reduce it in several areas.” He did not hesitate to point out that relations with China are good and are in the process of developing further, and to declare that Saudi Arabia is one of the fastest-growing countries, and will very soon become the fastest growing country in the world, and therefore it is up to America, whether it will win Saudi Arabia or lose it. And the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will be ready in either case.

Despite that, The Atlantic's journalist Graeme Wood was not fair to the young prince, and although the interview in its English version has not yet been published, the journalist's article that was published about this interview, and his quick judgments, which he was supposed not to rush to publish before the publication scheduled for the beginning of April, it contained many words and expressions that did not rise to the level of commitment to objectivity that should be possessed by journalistic work and its workers alike, regardless of their own opinions and visions that should not have been included. Describing Riyadh as a hideous city, and the prince as tyrannical, with adjectives such as “paranoia” and others without the slightest controls or professional etiquette, the hidden hints of the protocols for arranging the meeting and the precautionary measures in place due to the Coronavirus epidemic, and depicting wearing masks as if it were part of a mysterious movie scene, and the transformation of many private conversations into press releases materials, without any caution in not disclosing the names of those who spoke, that all of these are actions that the writer should not have fallen into, and to maintain professional commitment instead of sacrificing it to attract attention.

Instead, and contrary to what is emphasized by the conventions of the profession, Graeme Wood adopted the absolute adoption of the American view of the Saudi crown prince, which focuses on what it sees as negative and neglects the positive, and always asks for more, without providing it. Until today, America has not shown the encouragement that Vision 2030 deserves, despite all that it has achieved and will achieve: empowering women and granting them their right as an active member of society, pursuing corruption in all its forms and levels, diversifying the economy, liberating society and lifting the grip of traditional religious authorities, stopping the flow of jihadists, and preparing for normal relations with Israel and Iran.

However, despite the hesitant and unclear US position towards "Vision 2030", the Crown Prince was never neutral towards what he considered an American affair that had nothing to do with Saudi Arabia, pointing out at the same time that this matter is related to America's interests with Saudi Arabia and the region, and the Americans should choose the way they look after these interests. Other than that, the goals are clear to the Crown Prince: a modern, developed kingdom with a solid cultural and religious heritage identity, open and liberal, reconciled with the neighborhood, active in the region, and with diverse and influential international relations, supported by a pioneering and modern economy. To achieve these goals, the wheel of development in Saudi Arabia is proceeding with determination, speed, and steadfastness.

Back to the Beginning

I have been well acquainted with the content of the ambitious Vision 2030, which is designed to complete its bases and infrastructure during the remaining years. As for the maturation of its fruits related to its long-term strategic goals, this is a matter that takes a much longer period, but this will not detract from the importance of the Saudi transformation and its ability to achieve its goal. It will not be hindered by the tendencies of some observers to criticize and question everything that Saudi Arabia does, and adopted and led by its officials, and in their constant attempt to compare the scope of the vision with what the reality reflects today, and their quest to show the differences between them with some numbers and statistics fragmentary, sometimes, and interpreted outside their context, at others. These comparisons also deliberately overlook the objective circumstances and emerging problems facing major projects of this type, which are often confronted and exceeded with flexibility in planning and changing some implementation tools and methods in order to preserve the final goal. Especially since development experiences have proven, in all parts of the world, that adopting a policy of burning phases, and looking only at the results of numbers and data away from the overall outcome of the achievement, often comes with counterproductive results in the long run.

What Vision 2030 aspires to at the level of the state and the nation will not be fully clarified during the next eight or ten years. Rather, the entire current century will be the space for this vision after its foundations are completed and its results begin to accumulate. “2030” does not stop at the borders of the economy, although it represents its essence. Rather, it goes beyond it towards achieving the Kingdom’s general policies that are commensurate with the centrality of its political, religious, and social role, and the preparation of all structures; Social, security, military, and scientific..., which contribute to the continuity and development of this role. Especially since many parties, regional and international, do not hesitate to try to disrupt and divert it from its course, and this is what the Crown Prince referred to several times in his speech. Since he did not name these parties explicitly, we will not name them either, but everyone knows them and knows what the West is planning today in an attempt to normalize their presence and roles in the next stage.

Another matter that I wanted not to touch on now, but rather was determined to discuss it in an independent article, which is the case of the assassinated journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and Wood deliberately brought it up and insisted on it with the intent of provocation, or perhaps he might hear a piece of new information. Despite this, the Crown Prince welcomed all his questions, clarified all the circumstances that accompanied this case, and noted his condemnation and rejection of trafficking in it by some American parties and attempts to exploit it unjustly. In addition, the prince is still adherent, in terms of his responsibility as a leader of the state, by denouncing and rejecting it, making sure that something like that is never done again, and stressing that the law takes its natural course in dealing with those involved. What the prince has taken on this issue is the same behavior that Western officials use in denouncing and apologizing to the victim's family and relatives, and then the matter is closed with just judicial rulings.

Once again, we must find our way, be aware of others' greed, and be attentive to what to do when their interests’ conflict with ours, so supporting the crown prince's vision is not only a duty for his citizens but also the Arab brothers, friends, and allies of Saudis as well.


Hasan Ismaik