THE Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, helpfully known as MBS for short, is in London for a three-day visit that includes lunch with the Queen and a meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May.

He is not only heir to the throne of Saudi Arabia but also Minister of Defence and deputy Prime Minister to his father King Salman, and at just 32 is said to be the most powerful man in the kingdom after his father.

He will one day be in charge of Saudi Arabia’s vast oil wealth so it’s no wonder that Western leaders are keen to meet him.


HIS 82-year-old father Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud took the throne in 2015 after the death of his half-brother King Abdullah who was the tenth son of King Abdulaziz, otherwise known as Ibn Saud, the first king of Saudi Arabia. All subsequent kings since Ibn Saud have been his sons so when he takes the throne, Crown Prince Mohammed will be the first king of the country to be a grandson and not a son of the first king who ruled the united country from 1932 to 1953.

Prior to MBS, the Crown Prince and deputy Prime Minister was Muhammad bin Nayef, who survived four assassination attempts and was badly hurt in one, a suicide bombing by an Al-Qaeda terrorist. His regime of painkillers was reported to be one reason why King Salman replaced Muhammad last year with his own son who is in some respects fortunate to be in his current position.

For Salman himself only became King after two previous crown princes, Sultan and Nayef, died in 2011 and 2012 respectively, leaving Salman to become crown prince and then king in succession to King Abdullah who ruled from 20015 to 2015.


PERSONALITY wise, MBS is said to be eager to learn and he has previously travelled extensively around the world. He is married to his cousin Princess Sara and they have four children. The holder of a law degree, he is said to be completely dedicated to his work and very single-minded.

MBS had risen rapidly through the ranks of the Saudi court before he became Minister of Defence in early 2015. He immediately took Saudi Arabia and allies into considerable military action against the Houthi rebels in Yemen, a war that is still going on with massive civilian casualties.

He is the architect of Saudi Arabia 2030, a grand plan to reform the country culturally and make it less dependent on its huge oil wealth. The scale of the project is colossal, as it includes building a whole new city on a 334 sq km site southwest of the capital Riyadh.

Even before MBS became the power behind the throne, Saudi Arabia’s ruling elite had introduced economic reforms that forced ordinary citizens to tighten their belts, and MBS has continued that policy as he tries to make the nation less dependent on state spending.

He has also loosened the grip of the religious police on Saudi society, and has allowed women into sports stadia and removed the ban on cinemas and on women driving cars. His biggest plan, however, is to cleanse the country of the immense corruption which thrives there.


IN November last year, MBS stunned the world by having some of Saudi Arabia’s richest and most powerful men arrested and slammed up in a top hotel until they renounced their corrupt practices and paid very hefty fines – some $106 billion has been gathered in during the anti-corruption campaign which continues.

He himself has been criticised for spending almost a billion dollars on a luxury yacht and the Leonardo da Vinci painting Salvator Mundi, the world’s most expensive artwork.


AT Prime Minister’s Question Time, Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn asked Theresa May to raise the issue of what he called “the shocking abuse of human rights in Saudi Arabia” – several groups have reported increases in detention without trial and torture.

May answered by saying the UK’s links with Saudi Arabia – they include massive arms deals - had saved the lives of potentially hundreds of people in this country, but she would be “raising concerns about human rights.”

On British arms being used in Yemen, Corbyn said: “Germany has suspended arms sales to Saudi Arabia but British arms sales have sharply increased, and British military advisers are directing war.”

May said the Saudi involvement in Yemen “came at the request of the legitimate government of the Yemen, it is backed by the United Nations Security Council and as such we support it.”

Protests are expected at several venues during the three-day visit.