by Zafar Bangash (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 49, No. 9, Rabi' al-Awwal, 1442)
Developments in the medieval kingdom are not moving in the direction desired by Mohammad bin Salman (MbS), Saudi crown prince and de facto ruler. Long before the pandemic hit, MbS had caused enough damage to the kingdom’s economy throwing it into tailspin. Almost entirely dependent on oil revenues, he initiated a price war at a time when the demand for oil had virtually collapsed because of the pandemic.
While he has taken on many senior royals in his bid to eliminate all potential rivals to the throne, he has failed to wash the blood of Jamal Khashoggi off his hands. Khashoggi was murdered and his body dismembered in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in October 2018 on the express orders of MbS. And now, a political party has been formed by Saudi exiles demanding basic freedoms and democracy.
Both are anathema to the Bedouins from Najd. They consider themselves owner of the kingdom and its wealth and use it at their sole discretion.
(MbS) is anxious to become king sooner rather than later. His father King Salman, 85, suffering from dementia, has one leg in the grave. While life and death are in the hands of Allah, MbS is not waiting for nature to take its course. He wants to eliminate all rivals—real or imagined—before his father goes six-feet under. Will he succeed is the real question.
It is, however, his extravagant lifestyle coupled with ruthlessness that have stirred deep animosity. Most of his extravagant purchases were already known, thanks to the Internet. For instance, the superyacht Serene purchased from a Russian vodka tycoon at a cool price of 429 million euros ($500 million—twice the actual price), or the $300 million Chateau Louis XIV near Versailles in France. He also purchased Salvator Mundi—a Leonardo da Vinci painting, for $450 million.
Even if one were to overlook his land acquisitions—the Chateau in Versailles, for instance,—a big if that Forbes magazine described as the “world’s most expensive home”—or the 620-acre estate known as Le Rouvray, an hour’s drive from Paris, what does this uncouth Bedouin from the desert know about paintings especially one that has decidedly Christian religious overtones?
While he has imposed severe austerity measures on people at home including a 15% value added tax on gasoline, electricity and other essential items because of declining revenues, MbS has continued with his own acquisition binges. In November 2017, he rounded up scores of royals and tortured them for several months in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Riyadh forcing them to cough up tens of billions of dollars. He accused them of acquiring wealth through corruption—true—but has MbS acquired his through fair means? Being the son of the king, even a favourite one, does not entitle him to the country’s wealth.
One year after his Ritz-Carlton heist, MbS ordered his personal death squad to murder journalist Jamal Khashoggi. He was suffocated and then chopped up. Turkish intelligence agents were monitoring the Saudi consulate and released details of the gruesome murder. These surpassed even the Saudis’ customary brutality.
The gruesome murder sent shockwaves throughout the world even in the midst of so much bloodshed and mass killings. But the Western world, only interested in making money, soon overlooked the murder and returned to business as usual with Saudi Arabia. The US, Britain, France and Canada have continued to sell weapons worth billions of dollars to the murderous Saudi thugs. The US, Britain and France are also helping the Saudi-led war on Yemen that has killed tens of thousands of civilians and brought 24 million Yemenis to the brink of starvation.
There is an even more seedy side to MbS that has hitherto not received much attention. The Bani Saud are notorious for their antics at night clubs and gambling casinos in Europe. As crown prince, Fahd bin Abdul Aziz had lost $6 million in one night while gambling in a Monte Carlo casino. He also had an Israeli mistress, most likely a Mossad agent, that he kept in Beirut.
In Saudi Arabia, free mixing of men and women is strictly forbidden. True, these restrictions have been eased somewhat in recent years but it remains a deeply traditional society. In 2015, Saudi Arabia was still tightly controlled—politically, socially and morally.
Soon after Salman became king and he appointed MbS as defence minister, the young prince decided to throw a party for his friends. Instead of going to London or Paris where he feared the media would be on their tails, he chose a remote island in the Maldives.
Spread over hundreds of islands in the Indian Ocean, the Maldives atolls are sinking. That, however, has not prevented the rulers from turning these patches of sands into holiday resorts. Prices range from a few hundred to thousands of dollars per night, depending on the standard of resort and level of service.
MbS rented the island of Velaa for a cool price of $50 million for one month. He invited a select group of friends to have fun. From the capital Maale, the guests arrived at Velaa by seaplane. Tourists can also take a speed boat.
Some of the world’s top DJs and rappers to entertain them each night were also brought to the sin island. And then there was a bevy of European girls imported to entertain the guests and fulfill their desires.
Here was a man—barely 29—and son of the self-proclaimed Khadim al-Haramayn (Servant of the Two Holy Mosques)—indulging in such despicable behaviour. But those familiar with the Bani Saud were not surprised. Debauchery, theft and cruelty are in their genes.
While indulging in sin and paying for it with stolen wealth, MbS was aware that such conduct would not be well received in the kingdom if news leaked out. So, all precautions were taken to ensure privacy. In addition to the rowdy crowd bringing their own trusted servants, the island hotel’s 300 staff had their cell phones confiscated for the entire month when MbS and his friends would be there. They were compensated with a bonus of $5,000, a huge bonanza, for the poorly paid workers.
Velaa island is an exclusive resort. It has a hotel on the main island while private luxury villas are built out into the sea connected to the main island with causeways. Each villa also has a private swimming pool, located outside the bedroom or living room. Needless to say, it was luxury—and privacy—at its best.
The party would start each night with DJs playing loud music and the party-goers, especially scantily-clad European girls, gyrating to the pulsating sound. MbS and his equally flabby guests looked more like hippopotamuses jumping up and down. It is still a mystery why the island did not sink under the weight of their ponderous bulks!
Food and drinks were aplenty. The parties went on until dawn and the men would then retire, with their European picks of course, to their villas. Lest someone thinks that they stopped for Fajr salat, think again. What went on in those villas is best left unsaid.
They would emerge again from the villas in the afternoon to resume stuffing their enormous bellies with food and drinks. For the record, Maldives’ population is 99% Muslim but booze is available freely. How else would it attract foreign, especially European tourists? Alcohol is also a major attraction for the rich and vulgar Arabians. Girls are provided by Western tour operators that know these corrupters’ taste.
MbS’ entourage would have continued frolicking for a whole month but for the fact that news of the party leaked out within a week. Not the bravest of people, the Arabian debauchers fled leaving the hotel staff and European escort girls disappointed.
They had already been paid so there was no financial loss to them. The government of Maldives had also received its $50 million bakhsheesh in advance. Thus, there were no complaints on that score. The hotel staff and escort girls missed out on huge tips from the profligate Saudis had the parties continued.
When ordinary Saudis heard about MbS’ vulgar partying, they were appalled. How could this blighter frolick with European girls at a time when Saudi forces were fighting in Yemen? As defence minister, MbS was personally responsible for launching the disastrous war that still rages. In addition to killing tens of thousands of Yemenis whose lives do not matter to most Saudis, it is the economic impact of the war that has aroused concern.
These revelations, especially MbS’ partying escapades are contained in a new book by two American journalists working for the Wall Street Journal. The book jointly authored by Bradley Hope and Justin Scheck, is titled: Blood And Oil: Mohammed Bin Salman’s Ruthless Quest For Global Power. Did MbS not pay them enough bakhsheesh forcing them to come out swinging against him? Even a sleaze bag like MbS was embarrassed by some of the revelations.
Will MbS’ hands be chopped off for stealing (not just a few million but billions of dollars) and then he and his friends stoned to death for adultery, as would happen to ordinary Saudis? Perish the thought.
There is harsh punishment for ordinary Saudis imposed by kangaroo courts but there is no accountability for the crown prince, his father and others of their ilk. And these criminals have the gall to say that the Qur’an and the Prophet’s (pbuh) sunnah form the basis of law in the medieval kingdom.
The Arabian mushriks of the Prophet’s time had a better sense of fairness and justice.