There is plenty more in Hope and Scheck’s splendid book. The way MBS appropriated to himself confiscated assets, and spent fortunes on palaces, paintings, yachts and parties, and a pastiche Versailles château. His dispossession of the elites was popular and populist. Yet he seems to believe the Salman family, unjustly deprived by the Abdullah clan, has sole right to al-Saud wealth. We know MBS, unlike his older half-brothers, was educated solely in Saudi Arabia. Less known is how carefully he studied the workings of power. From very early on he built up his own intelligence capability that would become a fearful weapon — as Jamal Khashoggi would tragically discover.
MBS is the seventh child of King Salman bin Abdulaziz, but the first son from Salman’s second marriage. Salman felt estranged from his first six children after they were educated in Europe and the US, and resolved to keep his favourite son, Mohammed, by his side.
Salman taught MBS to spy on relatives. As an adolescent he was dubbed Stray Bear, because of his imposing size, scruffy appearance and bad temper. When Salman’s predecessor, King Abdullah, died in 2015, Mohammed, then 30, plotted his father’s accession to the throne. Salman made Mohammed deputy crown prince, minister of defence and head of the Saudi Aramco oil company. MBS embarked on a brutal and disastrous war against Shia Muslims in Yemen. He said the war would last only two months. It continues today.