Jefferson Morley | March 16, 2020
‘Electronic Authoritarianism:’ How MBS Rose to Power in Saudi Arabia
A new biography of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), by Ben Hubbard, describes how he perfected “electronic authoritarianism.”
From Fred Hiatt’s review in the The Washington Post
the most fundamental change the headstrong crown prince has brought about, Hubbard shows, is to turn a “soft-gloved autocracy” that featured multiple centers of power, and room for discreet grousing and dissent, into “a laboratory for a new kind of electronic authoritarianism.” “Over time, it would engage in surveillance, harassment, and kidnapping of Saudi citizens overseas, as well as their detention and sometimes torture inside palaces belonging to MBS and his father,” Hubbard writes.
By the time he finishes writing this book, he realizes that “something fundamental had changed in Saudi Arabia.”
Hubbard describes how Mohammed consolidated his position with gangster tactics straight out of the playbook of Stalin and his secret police chief, Lavrentiy Beria. He locked his own mother away. He took the prime minister of Lebanon hostage. In 2017, he engineered a soft coup against his older cousin, the respected counterterrorism chief Mohammed bin Nayef, whom Mohammed’s elderly and probably ailing father, King Salman, had installed as first crown prince. Just this month, that soft coup turned harder when Mohammed bin Nayef was arrested.
One key part of MBS power: the Saudi spy service known as the General Intelligence Presidency (GIP)