Bitcoin, Billionaires and The Madness of the House of Saud

First of all, new blog design! Aye. I know you guys loved my content but I feel like you deserve nice things so I went ahead and made it look great for you all. You’re welcome.

Geopolitical games have always been super interesting to me, and right now, the Middle East is doing a madness, most of it concentrated in the royal House of Saud. You see, for many years since the House of Saud founded the Arab kingdom of Saudi Arabia there has been a balance of power and consensus in the decision making apparatus of the country: the religious guys did their thing to keep the faithful in line, and the royal family did their thing to keep their billions flowing and they shared the throne among each other and everyone kinda was chill, yeah? Well, the thing is, over time complacency set in as it always does, and the billionaire princes of the House of Saud kind of got too chill and stopped paying attention to who was doing what with the throne because “we’ve all been doing this for years, the money is good and we don’t have no worries, it’s all family alright?” Well that was all well and good until Salman showed up. 

See, King Salman had a son, who based on the family arrangement was not directly in line for the throne. Instead his uncle was. However, Salman and his son really really wanted his son to become Crown Prince and next in line to the throne, then take over from him. And so began the chess game. The King skipped over lots of older family members and appointed his son as Minister of Defense, a position he himself used to occupy and from which he commanded the loyalty of the Saudi military. The prince, Mohammed, young, aggressive and handsome quickly began to remake the position in his image, launching an aggressive face down in Yemen, and saber rattling in the direction of Saudi’s centuries long Shia enemy, Iran (while carefully bypassing the head of the National Guard and son of the former king, Miteb bin Abdullah in decision making). The people loved it. The family yawned, so he favored his son, big deal. Everyone knows the rule, someone else will take over afterward. And sure, the King seemed to follow that as he appointed an older prince from the Nayef branch of the family who was directly descended from the founding king, as Crown Prince, while he made his own son Deputy Crown Prince. The traditions were being kept. Everyone relaxed.

But the plan to promote the Salman branch of the family was not done yet. As soon as the deputy Crown Prince had firm control of the ministries of defense, the oil monopoly and the national guard, the Crown Prince Nayef was deposed on trumped up charges and bin Salman was appointed as Crown Prince and directly in line to the throne at just 31. The former crown Prince was placed on house arrest, his guards replaced with guards loyal to the Crown Prince. After that, the crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) went out of his way to assure the billionaire princes of the family that the party wouldn’t stop. Until it did.

Few weeks ago, he set up an anti-corruption body and passed a law that almost immediately went into effect to ‘stem corruption’ in the country. Being a prince of the House of Saud suddenly became the most precarious position in the country. Prince Mansour bin-Muqrin, popular in the army, suddenly died in a helicopter ‘accident’ near the Yemen border. Prince Abdul Aziz bin Fahd was shot dead as authorities attempted to arrest him. The globally known Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the 34th-richest man in the world, with holdings in Citibank, Goldman Sachs and more and an estimated net worth of US$28 billion, was arrested. 11 other princes were arrested and their bank accounts frozen (I know they wished now that they had been smart enough to move their money out through Bitcoin). The son of the former king, Niteb bin Abdullah the one who used to lead the National Guard was also arrested. This is not an anti-corruption drive, this is a purge of the House of Saud to make way for bin Salman’s rise to the throne unchallenged.

Crown Prince at the Far right arrested every other person in this family picture this past week

There is a lot at stake here though. For decades the kingdom was stable because power was diffused and shared but of course that never lasts forever does it? There is always someone out there who wants to have it all and will ruthlessly throw everyone else under the bus. And besides, as oil money has taken hits, the kingdom has to reduce the number of billionaire princes and their offspring it supports. Someone has to cull the herd. It looks like Mohammed bin Salman has decided to be that someone. It’s a high stakes game but he is playing it and as it is said, in the game of Thrones, you either win or you die. Let’s see how this one plays out.

For me, I would say that this is as good a reason as any for people to know that there is use for Bitcoin. Imagine how much safer some of these billionaires would’ve been if they had been routing their billions through Bitcoin, selling it in New York and staying the fuck out of Salman’s way. But then again, life is unpredictable. Let us observe.

 

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