The Trump administration should take the stirring reforms being implemented in Saudi Arabia by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) with a grain of salt because the effort could backfire and end up empowering Islamic hard-liners, warns the director of the threat information office at the Center for Security Policy (CSP).
Echoing CSP President Frank Gaffney, director Kyle Shideler described U.S. President Trump’s support of MSB’s transformation efforts, namely the corruption probes that have led to the arrests of dozens of Saudi businessmen, officials, and even royalty as a gamble.
Referring to the reforms, Shideler told Breitbart News, “So far, for those of us who are concerned about the Saudi historical role in influencing America’s national security, I think there are some positive signs here.”
He acknowledged that the Saudis had arrested some individuals who pose a terrorist threat to the United States as part of their reforms, particularly Prince Alwaleed bin Talal.
Prince Talal has long played a “role in attempting to influence U.S. discourse on Islamic terrorism and similar issues by funding Islamist groups and Muslim Brotherhood groups in the United States,” noted the expert.
“So there are some guys here that are caught up in this corruption probe that I think, respective of U.S. national security, we’re definitely going to be interested to see how that probe progresses and what evidence is available against them,” added Shideler.
However, he warned that there are risks associated with Trump being all-in on the 32-year-old prospective king’s efforts.
“So there’s real possibility here for a positive outcome, but it could backfire in a big way, as well. So, it’s definitely a risk,” declared the CSP expert, explaining:
U.S. policy has traditionally favored stability in the Arabian peninsula over reform. The notion being the U.S. was happier keeping the status quo than trying to change things for the better because there’s risk if the reforms fail: [of] real hard-liners solidifying their position and taking the Saudi government in the direction we don’t want it to go. That’s always a possibility.
If it’s successful, however, it could be an improvement between U.S. and Saudi relations, which could be beneficial to us, that’s the challenge there.
Despite the potential benefits of the changes, Shideler warned against blindly supporting the crown prince’s reforms, telling Breitbart News:
I would suggest that it’s probably not advantageous for the U.S. government to get too far out ahead of events on the ground in Saudi Arabia. We can certainly take notes of the corruption probe and make general statements about being supportive of any anti-corruption efforts. Generally, however, we may not want to get into the nitty-gritty of specific individuals. So, we should be careful when prejudicing the outcome one way or another with some of these investigations.
He said that the Trump administration should monitor the crown prince’s moves closely, stressing that his success would prove favorable to America’s interests in the Middle East.
Nevertheless, he cautioned that a positive outcome is “not a guaranteed thing.”
Like Shideler, Gaffney described Trump’s support for the Saudi crown prince’s “vision for transforming his nation and ruthless determination to consolidate power” as a “big-time” gamble.
“That bet seems to be paying off following the dragnet MBS (as he’s known) pulled off over the weekend,” he added, alluding to the arrests of various rival royals “and hardline Wahhabi clerics.”
“We’ll know soon whether the young Crown Prince can continue consolidating power—and to what end,” noted Gaffney. “Meanwhile, President Trump has urged that Saudi Aramco’s initial public offering be brought to a U.S. market. It may wind up in China, though. If so, it’s a matter of time until the dollar is displaced as the reserve currency of the world, a very bad bet indeed for this country’s economy and debt.”