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MBS: The Rise To Power of Mohammed bin Salman by Ben Hubbard

My Rating of “MBS: The Rise To Power of Mohammed bin Salman” by Ben Hubbard: 8 / 10

"MBS: The Rise of Mohammed bin Salman" book cover

Make Saudi Arabia great again! This arguably is the most accurate tagline that sums up Ben Hubbard’s book MBS: The Rise to Power of Mohammed bin Salman. This is an excellent read recently released by a journalist with great insight into King Salman, Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) and Saudi Arabia. I learned about this book after listening to a Recode Decode podcast. Hubbard, a New York Times Beirut bureau chief, was interviewed by Kara Swisher.

ollows the typical biography structure of MBS’s life. It begins with MBS as young boy who’s father was nowhere near the succession line of the crown. Yet as luck would have it, things changed where Salman become the Crown Prince and MBS was much closer to gaining tremendous power. One has to put into perspective a number of aspects regarding MBS. The companies he ran never really were overly successful, he never had any military experience nor did he study overseas. Furthermore he had hardly spent any extended time overseas either. Hubbard also mentions MBS’s inability to master a foreign language whether that be French or English. Yet he was able to “forcibly” get Mohammed bin Nayef, the current Crown Prince, to abdicate. This allowed MBS to take the position of Crown Prince and cement his legacy in the Kingdom. His skill is in power and strategy.

Really enjoyed this story and all the behind the scenes background on the power struggles and a family hierarchy that has everybody in it for themselves. Hubbard details much of the foreign relations with the USA, Iran, Israel, Lebanon and others. He also spends quite a lot of the book on the Trump et al. relationship. Finally, as one can imagine, Hubbard recounts the events leading up to the murder of Khashoggi in Istanbul. Very detailed, very well reported and an excellent read.

Three key takeaways from the book:

  1. It is incredible what the eldest son of a second (maybe third) wife of the 25th son of Abdulaziz bin Saud (founding King of Saudi Arabia) was able to do. In order to go from vey low in the line of succession to the now being Crown Prince and next in line as King!
  2. For all the sinister, behind the scenes and covert actions MBS has performed, he has been very progressive as a leader. He eventually allowed women to drive and architecting Saudi Vision 2030. It is more reform Saudi Arabia needs to be relevant above and beyond oil.
  3. For everything that has happened in he last 4 years (with MBS as Crown Prince) and prior it is incredible how much of a partner the USA has remained with Saudi Arabia. Interestingly enough the book delves into great detail on the relationship with Donald Trump and Jared Kushner and the Saudi Royal Family.

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