Prince Mohammed launched a military campaign in neighboring Yemen in March 2015. A Saudi-led coalition, acting on an invitation from the internationally-recognized government, has targeted the Iran-aligned Houthi movement in a war which has killed more than 10,000 people.
…Even before the conflict, Yemen was the poorest country on the Arabian peninsula and now millions of people there are facing famine and a cholera epidemic. The coalition denies it blocks commercial shipments of food, medicine and fuel.
…Prince Mohammed has helped lead a diplomatic campaign to isolate Qatar, saying Riyadh’s erstwhile ally backs terrorism and cozies up to Iran. Qatar rejects the accusations and says it is being punished for straying from its neighbors’ backing for authoritarian rulers.
…Qatar had incensed Riyadh by cheering Arab Spring uprisings against some autocratic Arab rulers.
…Prince Mohammed has also opened a new front in the proxy war with Iran by threatening Tehran’s ally Hezbollah and its home country Lebanon.
…Vision 2030 has begun to reduce a big state budget deficit with austerity measures but has not yet created major new sources of non-oil growth or jobs.
…Saudi Arabia adheres to an austere Wahhabi brand of Sunni Islam, which bans gender mixing, concerts and cinemas.
Prince Mohammed’s ascent represents a social and cultural sea change, with power set to be passed to a much younger generation seemingly more in tune with young Saudis. In moves that reinforce that perception, women will be permitted to drive from next year and allowed to attend sports events.
The crown prince has also said the country will move to a more open and tolerant interpretation of Islam [apart from any Shiites associated with Iran, apparently…], and reforms have begun in areas once the exclusive domain of the clergy such as education, courts and the law. Saudi authorities have promoted elements of national identity that have no religious component or pre-date Islam.
Shifting sands: What is changing in Saudi Arabia?