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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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Learn more about how carbon created life on Earth in the second episode of Eni's Story of CO2 series.

As we enter the homestretch of the US presidential election — which is set to be the most contentious, and possibly contested, in generations — Americans are also voting on 35 seats up for grabs in a battle for the control of the Senate. The 100-member body is currently held 53-47 by the Republican Party, but many individual races are wide open, and the Democrats are confident they can flip the upper chamber of Congress.

Either way, the result will have a profound impact not only on domestic policy, but also on US foreign relations and other issues with global reach. Here are a few areas where what US senators decide reverberates well beyond American shores.

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On September 23, GZERO Media — in partnership with Microsoft and Eurasia Group — gathered global experts to discuss global recovery from the coronavirus pandemic in a livestream panel. Our panel for the discussion Crisis Response & Recovery: Reimagining while Rebuilding, included:

  • Brad Smith, President, Microsoft
  • Ian Bremmer, President and Founder, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media
  • Jeh Johnson, Partner, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP and former Secretary of Homeland Security.
  • John Frank, Vice President, UN Affairs at Microsoft
  • Susan Glasser, staff writer and Washington columnist, The New Yorker (moderator)

Special appearances by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde, and comedian/host Trevor Noah.

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Jon Lieber, who leads Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, offers insights on the Supreme Court vacancy:

Will Senate Republicans, who stopped a Supreme Court nomination in 2016, because it was too close to an election, pay a political price for the change in tactics this time around?

Not only do I think they won't pay a political price, I think in many cases, they're going to benefit. Changing the balance of power on the Supreme Court has been a career-long quest for many conservatives and many Republicans. And that's why you've seen so many of them fall in line behind the President's nomination before we even know who it is.

At this point, do Senate Democrats have any hope of stopping President Trump from filling the ninth seat on the Supreme Court?

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In a special GZERO Media livestream on global response and recovery amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media president Ian Bremmer discussed the difference between Europe's unified approach to economic stimulus and the deeply divided and political nature of the current conversation in the US. While initial stimulus support was bipartisan, there is little chance of Democrats and Republicans coming together again ahead of the November 3 presidential election. "It's red state versus blue state. President Trump's saying that coronavirus isn't so bad if you take the blue states out. He's president of the blue states, you can't take the blue states out," Bremmer told moderator Susan Glasser of The New Yorker.

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Panel: How will the world recover from COVID-19?

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