TROUBLE FOR THE CROWN PRINCE

TROUBLE FOR THE CROWN PRINCE

There are intriguing signals from Riyadh this week that some of Saudi Arabia’s most powerful men are feeling the heat. On Tuesday, Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz boarded a plane in London, and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman was there to meet him when he landed in Riyadh. Here’s why that’s a big deal:


  • Prince Ahmed is the last-surviving full brother of King Salman.

  • Years ago, Prince Ahmed hoped to one day succeed his brother as king. Instead, King Salman named his son Mohammad bin Salman, known widely as MBS, as his next in line.

  • In response, Prince Ahmed moved to London, where he has reportedly criticized both the king and crown prince over Saudi Arabia’s role in the war in Yemen.

  • MBS doesn’t appreciate criticism. That’s the subtext behind speculation that he may have ordered the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.

  • Nor does MBS want to share power. That’s the message of his move last year to detain a number of powerful princes and some of the kingdom’s most powerful businessmen, and his broader consolidation of control over the kingdom’s interior ministry and national guard.

This raises a couple of interesting questions. Is Prince Ahmed’s return from exile a signal from King Salman that power will now be shared among senior family members rather than concentrated in the hands of MBS? It seems unlikely Prince Ahmed would have risked a return from exile without some guarantee of safety. And if King Salman still intends that his son will be the next king, how secure can Prince Ahmed feel about his future inside the kingdom?

This curious manoeuvring comes at a time when the Saudi government faces heavier foreign pressure than at any time since the September 11 terrorist attacks.

First, the Turkish government refuses to allow the Khashoggi murder to fall from front pages. On Wednesday, Turkey issued its first official statement on the killing: “In accordance with plans made in advance, the victim, Jamal Khashoggi, was choked to death immediately after entering the Consulate General of Saudi Arabia.” The body was then dismembered “again, in line with advance plans.” This won’t be the last word we hear from Turkey on this story.

Second, the US and UK governments called this week for an immediate halt to the war in Yemen and for all parties to the conflict to join UN-led peace talks within 30 days. This is a direct rebuke to MBS, with whom President Trump appears to have good relations, because MBS has taken direct ownership of a Saudi-led military offensive in Yemen that fuels a crisis in which, according to the UN, as many as 14 million Yemenis face risk of starvation.

The bottom line: These stories touches on three crucial elements of the Saudi story: Succession, an aggressive Saudi foreign policy, and reform within the kingdom. For now, it still seems unlikely that MBS will have his wings clipped in a lasting way. But fallout from the Khashoggi murder, domestic and international, continues to mount.

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The European Union is, for better or worse, the most ambitious experiment in human history in institutionalized multinational cooperation. Its success depends on the willingness of its members to abide by its rules.

In recent years, the populist-nationalist governments of former Communist bloc members Hungary and Poland have flouted some of those rules in order to boost their own popularity with citizens suspicious of the EU's liberal values on issues like immigration and minority rights. In response, the EU has scolded these "illiberal" governments and threatened forceful action – so far without much effect.

The fight between EU institutions and Poland and Hungary has escalated.

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Ian Bremmer is joined on GZERO World by artificial intelligence scientists Kai-fu Lee, who recently wrote about how AI will change the world over the next two decades, precisely to talk about AI's future. After this week's Facebook debacle, how can we align interest to regulate AI-driven algorithms? Will AI steal all our jobs? And what should we do to learn from AI to improve our lives before it gets smarter than us?

Watch this episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer: Is a robot coming for your job? Kai-fu Lee explains AI

US elections officials have always persuaded losing candidates that they've, ahem, lost. Now it's worse because there's a new paradigm, according to former DHS and Election Assistance Commission official Matt Masterson, policy fellow with the Stanford Internet Observatory. Candidates that won't accept defeat regardless of the margin or evidence of fraud, he says, are undermining trust in the system — and election officials are ill-equipped to deal with this problem.

Matt Masterson made these remarks during a live Global Stage event, Infodemic: defending democracy from disinformation. Watch the full event here: https://www.gzeromedia.com/global-stage/virtual-events/disinformation-is-a-big-problem-what-can-we-do-about-it

Who's most responsible for spreading misinformation online? For Ginny Badanes, senior director for Democracy Forward at Microsoft, the problem starts with those who create it, yet ultimately governments, companies and individuals all share the burden. And she's more interested in what we can do to respond.

Ginny Badanes spoke at a live Global Stage event, Infodemic: defending democracy from disinformation. Watch the full event here: https://www.gzeromedia.com/global-stage/virtual-events/disinformation-is-a-big-problem-what-can-we-do-about-it

Some of the worst sectarian clashes since Lebanon's 15-year civil war (1975-1990) broke out in Beirut this week between supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, and Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. Shiite protesters were rallying against the state probe into the Beirut port blast, which occurred last year. They say authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. In this video, watch Ian Bremmer's conversation with Lebanese journalist and author Kim Ghattas on GZW talking about the future of Lebanese politics and sectarianism in the county after the after the blast. It was originally published on August 19, 2020.

In Lebanon, "a majority (are) united in wanting a different future, a future that is non-sectarian, that is non-corrupt, that provides prosperity, justice, dignity for people," journalist Kim Ghattas told Ian Bremmer on GZERO World.

In this interview, Ghattas discusses the opportunity that could arise from the tragedy of the Beirut explosion which killed 200 and injured thousands more. The Lebanese are "fed up" with the militant group Hezbollah, she tells Bremmer, and want to strive for a government that better resembles the diversity and cosmopolitan nature of its citizens.

Watch the GZERO World episode: Lebanon Post-Blast: Rage in the Streets of Beirut.

Some of the worst sectarian clashes since Lebanon's 15-year civil war (1975-1990) broke out in Beirut this week between supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, and Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. Shiite protesters were rallying against the state probe into the Beirut port blast, which occurred last year. They say authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. Below is our original piece on the Beirut port explosions published on August 5, 2020.


The twin explosions at Beirut's port on Tuesday were so powerful that the aftershocks reverberated as far as the Eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, 150 miles away. The specter of fire and smoke was such that many suggested on social media that Beirut had experienced a nuclear blast.

In the days ahead, more details will come to light about why a deadly cache of materials was haphazardly stashed at a port warehouse, and why Lebanon's government failed to secure the site. So, what comes next for crisis-ridden Lebanon?

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Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

What does it actually mean to cut $1 trillion from the Democrats' $3.5 trillion social spending bill?

President Biden has proposed one of the most ambitious expansions of federal spending in recent memory. If he gets everything he wants, it would probably be the largest expansion of government since the Great Society, but he's not going to get everything he wants. Democrats have basically said they cannot do all $3.5 trillion in spending. They're probably going to end up around $2 trillion. So what gets cut? Well, we don't know yet. There's kind of two ways to go about this. They could either cut the number of programs that have been proposed, doing fewer things with more money on a permanent basis, or they could try to do more things, each program getting less money and potentially doing them on a temporary basis. So, a future Congress would have to extend it. What does this mean for you? Well, a lot of the money in here is designed to go directly to families, either in the form of cash payments, through the tax code, the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit, or subsidies for things like child care, early childhood education, and community college. And if you cut these things back, it means less money is going to go out the door to the American people. It also means less tax increases to finance it. So the implications of what's being proposed could actually end up being a big deal for a lot of Americans who would qualify for benefits under these new programs.

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