Saudi Arabia: Mohammed Bin Salman Bin Abdelaziz (MBS)

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Role: Crown prince, prime minister, chairman of the Council of Economic and Development Affairs and the Council of Political and Security Affairs

In the early 2010s, GSN began to note the rise of the young and ambitious Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS), marked out even then for his boldness and aggressiveness, as well as his physical resemblance to the founder of the kingdom, King Abdelaziz (Ibn Saud).

Compared to his elder half-brothers who were educated abroad and had developed Western tastes, MBS was seen as very different. He went to university in the kingdom, at King Saud University in Riyadh, and shadowed his father Salman – then Riyadh governor and also the family’s stern policeman – and watched closely how he dealt with citizens and other royals.

Since becoming deputy crown prince in April 2015 and crown prince in June 2017, MBS has torn up the old cautious model of decision-making, which was based on consensus-building. MBS spends little time discussing issues with cousins – or sharing the kingdom’s wealth among as broad a range of princes as before – and there are few now guardrails beyond the king himself. Arrests of family members and former regime officials show MBS has little tolerance for any impediment to his vision for transforming Saudi Arabia into a modern, powerful country. He is the driving force across government, with the support of his father.

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