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Saudi Shake-Up: Strategic Move or Confused Kingdom?

Saudi Shake-Up: Strategic Move Or Confused Kingdom?
The late-night military shakeup that just took place in Saudi Arabia is being celebrated by those who see it as a strategic move, while others are more cautious and claim that it shows just how confused the Wahhabi Kingdom has become lately.

Saudi King Salman dismissed the army chief of staff and the commanders of the ground and air forces, replacing them with younger men in what some people say is a sign of Riyadh's increasing dissatisfaction with the stalemated War on Yemen and also the powerful Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman's intent to inject "new blood" into the old system. He also announced a multi-year effort for restructuring the Ministry of Defense in general. 

This observation can be interpreted in one of two ways — the first being that it's a strategic decision to reinvigorate the armed forces while simultaneously paving the way for a new generation of leaders to assume power, while the second is more cynical and says that there isn't any real thought behind what just took place because it was allegedly due to the Crown Prince's youthful and inexperienced political-military whims. Both understandings are plausible in their own way. On the one hand, Saudi Arabia is indeed undergoing a profound period of transformation as part of Mohammed Bin Salman's ambitious Vision 2030 project, but at the same time, his impetuousness has already seen Saudi Arabia get engulfed in the never-ending War on Yemen and the GCC Cold War with Qatar.

Another way of looking at what just happened is that it's a response to the Crown Prince's previous decision-making shortcomings in those two countries, and that he now either desires to change course or is trying to optimize his forces so that they can double down on those fronts. Either way, the objective assessment is that Mohammed Bin Salman's plans have thus far failed in Yemen and Qatar, therefore compelling the Kingdom to do something about it one way or another.  Given the Crown Prince's tendencies, however, this is probably linked to Vision 2030 and might even be related to what some analysts have described as his "deep state" coup late last year that was executed under anti-corruption pretexts.

Altogether, it's obvious that things are changing in Saudi Arabia, but it's still unclear whether they're for the better or for the worse, and whether these positives or negatives relate more to the country or its neighbors.

Engin Ozer, Turkish political analyst and expert based in Moscow, and Adam Garrie, Director of Eurasia Future, commented on the issue.

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