WHEN you watch a spoiled brat whose parents have never stopped it from doing anything walk into a curio shop, you know it’s just a matter of time before disaster strikes.
And sure enough, even when he didn’t wield the kind of power he does now, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince, led his country into a savage war in Yemen. This conflict has killed thousands of innocent Yemenis, with incompetent Saudi pilots bombing schools, markets, weddings and funerals to produce tens of thousands of casualties. It has also triggered a humanitarian crisis with millions facing starvation and cholera. The Saudi embargo has stopped ships from unloading critical food and medicines.
The economic warfare being waged against Qatar is another example of immature policies scribbled on the back of an envelope after a heavy lunch. The tiny sheikdom was no threat to Saudi Arabia; the only real issue was its Al Jazeera TV channel whose Arabic service had become a real thorn in its side. Also, Qatar had, in the eyes of the Saudi and Emirati ruling elites, become too big for its boots. Its hosting of the football World Cup in 2022, and its acquisition of some of the most iconic properties in Western capitals had clearly irked the royals in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi.
Then, of course, Riyadh is trying to cope with the collapse of its ill-conceived policy in Syria. Here, for years, the kingdom supported the nastiest jihadist factions on the battlefield. Now that Assad’s forces, backed by Russia, Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah, have virtually won the war, the Saudis are looking for options. In particular, they want to roll back Tehran’s increasing clout in the arc that extends from Iran to Lebanon across Iraq and Syria.