“Blood and Oil” by Bradley Hope and Justin Scheck

Blood and Oil: Mohammed Bin Salman’s Ruthless Quest for Global Power by Bradley Hope and Justin Scheck is a rivetting account of the Crown Prince of Saudi Prince. It is published by John Murray, Hachette. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) of Saudi Arabia, is a prince who has captured the world’s imagination with his suave presence on the global political stage but also with very strong rumours of his unorthodox, at times brutal, methods of ruling. Most notably the allegation of his involvement in the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the holding of three hundred members of the Saudi royal family in the Ritz Carlton for month. The authors refer to him on the back cover as “one of the world’s most decisive and dangerous new leaders”.

The two co-authors are experienced journalists and Pulitzer Prize finalists. They seem to know how to strike the balance between getting sufficent evident and putting together a narrative that zips along. It is astonishing to read the facts that they document whether the meteoric rise of the prince or of some of his aides. A case in point being the young Ali Alzabarah, a young Saudi who was educated in the United States on a Saudi scholarship and then had been employed at Twitter. As this extract from the book published in The Wire shows that Ali Azabarah’s rise in Saudi society and definitely within the inner circles of the prince was astonishing. ( “A Saudi Prince’s Attempt to Silence Critics on Twitter: An ongoing investigation reveals how Mohammed bin Salman’s team allegedly infiltrated the platform—and got away with it” The Wired, 1 Sept 2020) It is plain scary.

Other journalists have been equally fascinated by the prince and done their own form of investigative journalism. Take for instance, FRONTLINE PBS correspondent Martin Smith, who has covered the Middle East for FRONTLINE for 20 years, examines MBS’s vision for the future, his handling of dissent, and his relationship with the United States. This documentary was made a year after the murder of columnist Jamal Khashoggi, and FRONTLINE investigated the rise and rule of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) of Saudi Arabia.

Books like Blood and Oil are fascinating to read but capture only a very brief moment in time. The prince works at a very fast pace and is forever evolving as are the circumstances around him. He is a man in great hurry who has youth on his side. So he will be here for a long time to stay. There are bound to be visible changes in Saudi society. For good or bad, only time will tell. This is an ongoing story.

Perhaps this book will take a life of its own in different media. It needs it.

For now, read Blood and Oil. Well worth the time!

23 Oct 2020

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