The Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) is coming to Washington next month, so naturally we are already being treated to shameless propaganda on his behalf in our newspapers. Here’s Dennis Ross’ plea to “get behind” the Saudi king’s son:
I have just returned from my second trip to Saudi Arabia since Mohammed bin Salman, the 32-year-old crown prince, became the driving force for change in the kingdom. His efforts to transform Saudi society amount to a revolution from above. Many seem to equate him with the shah of Iran, who thought he could Westernize his country without modernizing its social, religious roots and was ultimately swept away in the revolution that produced the Islamic Republic of Iran. I see him as more like Mustafa Kemal Ataturk — a leader who revolutionized Turkey by taking away the power of the religious base and secularizing the country.
It is bad enough to take MbS’s “reform” program at face value, as Tom Friedman did last year, but it is ludicrous to suggest that this power-grabbing Saudi despot can be compared to a secularizing modernizer like Ataturk. There is little evidence that he is “taking away the power of the religious base,” especially when his foreign policy has been marked by fueling sectarianism and pandering to Saudi clerics.