Yet Another Strongman

Xi Jinping is not the only strongman who made big (geopolitically consequential) moves this week. On Monday, the Saudi government issued late-night decrees to replace the kingdom’s top military commanders. No one has explained the reasons for the changes, but the message is clear enough. Soon-to-be-king Mohammad bin Salman wants all to know he’s fully in charge. And maybe he wants to blame the outgoing generals for a badly run war in Yemen for which he might otherwise face criticism. This was done in the King’s name, but it’s the Crown Prince’s agenda.


We also learned this week that women will soon be allowed to serve in the Saudi military. They won’t be in combat. (They can drive cars, but not tanks.) Instead, they’ll reportedly work in military security.

The broader message: Saudi Arabia will no longer be governed by consensus among rival branches of the royal family. One (young) man is in charge. He means to change his country, and he won’t need to amend a constitution to give himself more time.

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