The findings of a Gallup poll released in April revealed that the ruler of Saudi Arabia is more popular than those of Iran and Türkiye in 13 Islamic countries. This affirms that the administration of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has managed to win hearts and minds and turned the Kingdom into a leading soft power during the “Salman reign.”
The Crown Prince succeeded in enhancing Saudi Arabia’s standing in a region ripped apart by conflicts and wars. How did he do it? How did he take Vision 2030 from an unexpected step to the new mission of the Kingdom under the leadership of King Salman bin Abdulaziz and the direct supervision of the Crown Prince?
The questions have been mounting since Saudi Arabia hosted summits, with the US to China, and recently the Arab League, over the past year, as well as the AlUla Summit that preceded it. The most important question here is: How did this broadly adored leader open the door to reconciliation with Iran and Russia? Is this a paradox or flexibility? Indeed, how did he convince the Ukrainian president to attend?
Those who have believed in the Crown Prince’s leadership and administration since the beginning reply: Vision 2030 is a comprehensive project aimed at giving precedence to interests and making use of opportunities. The Crown Prince has taken the region from “the phase of ideology to the phase of technology,” which demands stability, investment and young minds that believe that their country is the future. It can only be achieved through education, not ideological fervor. Here is an example: Saudi women have made it to space after decades spent arguing over their right to drive.
The moves Crown Prince Mohammed has already made, as well as those he is currently making, seek to “take the region from the stage of mass destruction to a stage of mass construction.” Nothing can be built by conflicts and crises. Construction cannot be achieved amid estrangement; it needs clear air and communication. It can only succeed through the enhancement of investment opportunities and by replacing the security coordination prevalent in the region with economic cooperation. Partnership must also replace suspicion, and competition must replace conflict.
What the Crown Prince has done is present two options: either join the shift “from ideology to technology” or choose between “mass destruction and mass construction” (through partnership, not gifts, grants, and tricks). Thus, the region has a choice to make. Whoever hesitates or refuses will end up like the European states that rebuffed the Marshall Plan before eventually begging for entry into the European Union. It is this reading of the Saudi project that has won hearts and begun to convince minds.
In fact, this view drove NYU International Relations Professor Alon Ben-Meir to write that the Crown Prince “has emerged as the undisputed leader of the Middle East. He seeks prosperity, security, and stability.” “The Saudis have created a promising geostrategic environment in the region” in order to “achieve three distinct objectives: maximum stability in a region being torn apart by conflict, enhancing its influence and standing in the region and around the world, and guaranteeing stable exports,” he added.
Alright, how did that happen? Here, you could be told: this is construction in the “Salman style”. However, the more important thing is that this is the “Salman reign,” and it is being administered by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz.