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Blood and Oil: Mohammed bin Salman's Ruthless Quest for Global Power

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From award-winning Wall Street Journal reporters comes a revelatory look at the inner workings of the world's most powerful royal family, and how the struggle for succession produced Saudi Arabia's charismatic but ruthless Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, aka MBS.​ 35-year-old Mohammed bin Salman's sudden rise stunned the world. Political and business leaders such as former UK prime minister Tony Blair and WME chairman Ari Emanuel flew out to meet with the crown prince and came away convinced that his desire to reform the kingdom was sincere. He spoke passionately about bringing women into the workforce and toning down Saudi Arabia's restrictive Islamic law. He lifted the ban on women driving and explored investments in Silicon Valley.

But MBS began to betray an erratic interior beneath the polish laid on by scores of consultants and public relations experts like McKinsey & Company. The allegations of his extreme brutality and excess began to slip out, including that he ordered the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. While stamping out dissent by holding 300 people, including prominent members of the Saudi royal family, in the Ritz-Carlton hotel and elsewhere for months, he continued to exhibit his extreme wealth, including buying a $70 million chateau in Europe and one of the world's most expensive yachts. It seemed that he did not understand nor care about how the outside world would react to his displays of autocratic muscle—what mattered was the flex.

Blood and Oil is a gripping work of investigative journalism about one of the world's most decisive and dangerous new leaders. Hope and Scheck show how MBS' precipitous rise coincided with the fraying of the simple bargain that had been at the head of US-Saudi relations for more than 80 years: oil, for military protection. Caught in his net are well-known US bankers, Hollywood figures, and politicians, all eager to help the charming and crafty crown prince.

The Middle East is already a volatile region. Add to the mix an ambitious prince with extraordinary powers, hunger for lucre, a tight relationship with the White House through President Trump's son in law Jared Kushner, and an apparent willingness to break anything—and anyone—that gets in the way of his vision, and the stakes of his rise are bracing. If his bid fails, Saudi Arabia has the potential to become an unstable failed state and a magnet for Islamic extremists. And if his bid to transform his country succeeds, even in part, it will have reverberations around the world.

Longlisted for the Financial Times & McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award

368 pages, Hardcover

First published September 1, 2020

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About the author

Bradley Hope

9 books89 followers
Bradley Hope, based in London, is the New York Times bestselling co-author of Billion Dollar Whale and Blood and Oil. He is a Pulitzer Prize finalist and Gerald Loeb Award winner. Formerly a reporter for The Wall Street Journal and a correspondent in the Middle East, Hope is co-founder of Project Brazen, a journalism studio and production company.

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Profile Image for Max.
337 reviews288 followers
February 24, 2022
An informative account of the rise of Mohammed bin Salman (MBS). My notes follow.

When his elderly father became king in January 2015, MBS at 29 with no military experience became head of the Saudi Defense Ministry. MBS was aggressive and determined. Not first in the line of succession, he set out to demonstrate he was a force to be dealt with. After just eight weeks in the job, he ordered Saudi F15 jets to begin bombing the Houthi rebels in Yemen to the surprise of his generals and the U.S., a Saudi ally. The Houthi’s had been steadily gaining ground in Yemen on Saudi Arabia’s southern border. They were supported by Iran, Saudi Arabia’s archenemy. The U.S. realized MBS, who just launched a major war on his own, was very different than past Saudi leaders. Calling the war operation Decisive Storm, MBS quickly began a big domestic PR campaign depicting himself as a strong leader. Photos were everywhere showing him with a stern countenance consulting with generals, studying maps and the like.

MBS’s income as a member of the royal family was not enough. He leveraged the influence he garnered as the king’s son to demand “loans” from wealthy business owners. He used the money to invest and start his own businesses. Real estate development proved lucrative. He was determined to establish a large fortune, a requisite for real power. He was not educated abroad and spoke only Arabic making him culturally closer to the Saudi public. But he realized money was in the West. He cultivated foreign contacts and advisors.

King Salmon, who was fifty when MBS was born, had raised him more like a grandchild. MBS was brazen and hot tempered, but he had strong backing from his father who always had a soft spot for him. MBS believed that Saudi Arabia needed to diversify its investments and not rely solely on oil. He also wanted to pull foreign investment into his country. He developed grand ideas for the future. He realized that the religious extremism in Saudi Arabia, its outdated laws and subjugation of women stood in the way of prospering in the global business community. In April 2015 MBS gained control of Saudi Aramco putting him in charge of the nation’s oil industry. He also moved up in the line of succession to Deputy Crown Prince. In four months, MBS rose from an afterthought to a person of power and influence.

MBS, of course, had internal rivals. But he was adept at countering them. He used social media extensively to sing his praises and discredit his rivals. MBS built a team to spy on opponents and manipulate the internet to his advantage. He paid employees at Twitter to leak information to him to find anonymous critics. By September of 2015 MBS was bringing domestic businesses in line, making sure they worked through him and his companies. For example, Saudia Air negotiated a big volume discount from Airbus. Great! MBS intervened. One of his companies bought the planes at the discount price and leased them to the airline at full price. Corruption was endemic in Saudi Arabia. Dissenters who threatened MBS’s plans were quickly dispatched, some kidnapped to never be seen again. MBS was setting up an extensive security service he could rely on.

Next, he wanted to sell off a chunk of Aramco to create the investment fund MBS had dreamed of. He brought in McKinsey and other high-profile consultants. In January 2016, a year after his father’s accession, MBS announced the offering. Saudi Aramco was estimated to be valued at two trillion dollars, the same amount of the investment fund MBS wanted to create. However, MBS only wanted to sell a small slice of Aramco. He expected a lot of foreign investment in his new fund. It would not be all Saudi money and he wanted most of it invested in Saudi Arabia. He called his plan Vision 2030 and presented it to General Petraeus who was in Riyadh that month. Petraeus was blown away. MBS was knowledgeable, confidant and prepared. Other luminaries followed. Tony Blair, Lawrence Summers, and top bankers from the world’s elite came to view the plan. There was a lot of money to be made by the consultants and intermediaries. MBS also hosted Secretary of State John Kerry on the $430 million yacht he had just bought. MBS had the world’s attention.

In September 2016, MBS teamed up with Masayoshi Son, CEO of SoftBank. He wanted to turn his fund into a sovereign wealth fund. Masayoshi wanted to establish a fund for technology investment and MBS agreed to put in $45 billion from the new sovereign wealth fund. In turn, MBS wanted Masayoshi to invest in his Vision Fund that would invest in Saudi Arabia. MBS already had teams of consultants working on his plan. He housed them on a cruise ship offshore from the entirely new city he planned to build on the Red Sea. It was to be a global technology center and the ultimate tourist paradise and had to completely outdo Dubai. MBS knew Saudi Arabian laws and cultural standards would have to give way in the new city. That is why he chose a remote site where there would be no conflict. He called the new city NEOM, a portmanteau meaning new and future. His Vision Fund would have to raise $500 billion for the project.

MBS was thrilled when Donald Trump was elected, despite the anti-Islamic rhetoric. MBS just saw it as political posturing. But he knew Trump was also anti-Iran, Saudi Arabia’s biggest enemy. In Trump he saw someone he recognized, an old man with an outsized ego, just like the many royals he had manipulated. MBS convinced Jared Kushner that Trump’s first foreign trip should be to Saudi Arabia and Steve Bannon was an enthusiastic supporter. MBS got along well with Jared who was charged with arranging Trump’s trip to Saudi Arabia. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson expressed caution which caused Bannon to refer to him and his department as the deep state. Getting Trump as president to visit Saudi Arabia first of all countries in the world cemented MBS’s stature as the power in Saudi Arabia. MBS laid it on thick appealing to Trump’s ego at every turn. The pictures of Trump with King Salmon and Egyptian President el-Sisi standing staring off into space with their hands on a glowing orb spread around the world.

Feeling empowered after the Trump visit in May 2017, MBS teamed up with the United Arab Emirates and then Egypt to completely boycott rival Qatar raising the eerie prospect of fighting between Gulf States all well supplied with American weapons. Qatar housed a huge American airbase. MBS hired Russian hackers to infiltrate Qatar’s information systems and send out deeply embarrassing phony statements that were widely reported as true. Qatar denied sending the statements, but the damage was done. MBS hated the Qatari royal family for its support of the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Jazeera which broadcast news critical of MBS and Saudi Arabia. MBS was now coming down not only on critics at home but in other countries. He wanted Qatar to be a vassal state. Trump made statements supporting MBS and Bannon told the Emirates leader to “take care of this.” At home in June 2017, MBS forced the crown prince to resign making himself crown prince, next in line to be king. In September 2017 MBS arrested clerics and others who had criticized him. While MBS was a reformer in some respects, that did not apply to the right to dissent. His reforms, allowing women to drive and allowing movie theaters, had political motivations. He wanted to curry favor with the young. 70% of the Saudi population was under thirty. He also saw such reforms important for the country’s image and necessary to secure foreign investment and tourism from which he would profit as well. MBS saw himself as the state.

In October 2017, MBS hosted “Davos in the Desert” to publicly announce his financial plans including the Vision 2030 Fund and NEOM. Blackstone’s Stephen Schwarzman was there as was Masayoshi Son, Tony Blair, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, Hollywood mogul Ari Emanuel and many other wealthy elites. The New York Times sponsored it and Andrew Ross Sorkin conducted interviews on stage. MBS wanted foreign investment in these plans but those attending were far more interested in Saudi investment in their plans and they usually won. Richard Branson secured a billion dollar commitment for Virgin Galactic and Emanual got $400 million for Endeavor, while Blackstone already had a $20 billion commitment for an investment fund.

In November 2017 MBS conducted what the authors call a “Sheikhdown”. He arrested any powerful figure in the country he deemed a threat. He forced them to resign their positions and return money to the state (controlled by MBS) that he claimed they took illegally. They had no choice. MBS had his security team listening in on all communications in the country. He knew everything they had said and done. MBS filled the vacant positions with his men. Creating an international incident, MBS held the prime minister of Lebanon, Saad Hariri, hostage and made him resign. Hariri and his family had a long history of doing business with Saudi Arabia. MBS was upset about Hariri’s tolerant attitude towards Hezbollah, a powerful faction in Lebanon, and also resentful of Hariri and his father’s enriching themselves in their business dealings with a former Saudi king. Hariri had also deeply embarrassed Saudi Arabia years earlier disclosing at a time of low oil prices that it was unable to pay its foreign workers. For MBS it was political and personal, essentially the same thing to him. However, MBS was doing OK. That month MBS paid $450 million for Leonardo da Vinci's Salvator Mundi at a Christie’s auction, the most ever paid for a painting.

In March and April 2018 MBS toured the U.S., U.K. and France. He met with business tycoons like Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch and Elon Musk as well as Trump. He was disappointed with Trump who he realized was entirely transactional, not a friend. Trump just wanted more money from Saudi Arabia. Business people were reluctant to invest in Saudi Arabia particularly with all the crackdowns MBS was conducting including his arrest of women protesting the lack of women’s rights. Women wanted more than just to be able to drive and go to the movies. MBS would not accept any criticism from them or anyone else. Next came the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Khashoggi, a Saudi, lived in Washington DC working as a reporter for the Washington Post. He was very critical of MBS and MBS had been upset with him for years. When Khashoggi wanted to get married again, he needed to prove he was divorced. That meant getting records from Saudi Arabia. He was told to come home to Saudi Arabia. Instead, he went to the Saudi embassy in Turkey. The embassy told him they needed some time to get the records. In October 2018 Khashoggi entered the embassy while his fiancé waited outside. He didn’t return. MBS had sent a special security team there. They drugged Khashoggi then strangled him then dismembered him to haul away the parts. All of it was caught on audio tape by the Turks and it created a worldwide furor.

Undeterred despite the fallout, MBS continued on with his plans. The Aramco IPO finally took place on the Saudi exchange in December 2019. While Aramco was valued at $1.7 trillion, the shares sold only raised 25 billion, mostly from local investors, some forced to invest. Meanwhile the $45 billion MBS had invested in the Softbank fund was doing poorly. The fund had suffered losses investing in companies like WeWork, Wag and Katerra. As MBS entered 2020, he continued on the same path, cracking down on critics by any means possible, seeking investment in Saudi Arabia and only getting hit up to invest abroad. And now he would have to face the pandemic. This is where the authors leave us.
Profile Image for Umaymah.
227 reviews21 followers
November 2, 2020
Solid 5 stars. Because of this book I'm reading
1. Black Wave by Kim Ghattas
2. MBS by Ben Hubbard
3. The Killing in the Consulate by Jonathan Rugman, and
4. Vision or Mirage by David Tindell

I'm ecstatic.
Profile Image for Thomas Wright.
2 reviews9 followers
July 23, 2020
A pacy read that unpacks the unlikely story of one of the world’s most enigmatic and ruthless leaders, who remains close to Kushner and others in the US administration. It’s also a lively primer on the history of Saudi Arabia and the wider Gulf region. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Rohit Enghakat.
230 reviews59 followers
February 28, 2021
The cover of the book was superb and enticing enough to buy it. It chronicles the rise of Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. From a relative non-entity to being the de facto ruler of the Kindom of Saudi Arabia, the book narrates the rise to power of MBS in a country ruled by Al Saud family. This is however, not a biography. It delves minutely into the power struggles of the royal family without going into the history of Saudi Arabia.

MBS came into the limelight after a drive to root out corruption by imprisoning most of the princes and their close coterie at the Ritz Carlton and releasing them after months of house arrest in exchange for money or properties earned by them over the years through corruption and questionable deals. He has tried to project himself as a prince with moderate liberal views after introducing a slew of economic reforms, cutting the allowances and financial dole-outs given to princes as part of their share in oil revenues earned by the kingdom. Saudi Arabia's cash cow is its oil reserves and the conglomerate Saudi Aramco owned by the king and his family. All the infrastructure in the country is developed by Saudi Aramco. This was a stunning piece of information. Imagine an entire country being run on Saudi Aramco's revenues including financing the students' education abroad! He is also known for giving women the right to drive which was seen as immoral earlier. He has also been instrumental in opening up the entertainment sector and phasing out some of the strict religious laws deemed as a violation of human rights. This was to project Saudi Arabia as a modern country with moderate Islamic rules to attract investment into the country in the form of investments and to reverse the flow of money into Saudi Arabia. His foresight is commendable as he wants to open up other avenues for generating income and not to rely only on the oil economy.

However, his track record as a person who is intolerant to criticism and dissidence came to light in the aftermath of the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist who was a former supporter of the royal and later became its staunch critic voicing his opinion against monarchy on global platforms. The intrigue and the plot to kill Jamal is vividly described in chilling detail. This event has overshadowed whatever positive outreach was done by the prince.

The authors have done detailed research into the lives of the obnoxiously rich royals without going too much into their personal lives. MBS' family is barely mentioned in the book. They have limited the narrative strictly on the growth trajectory of MBS. This makes for a wonderful read. The book is almost flawless and provides a nearly balanced view of MBS.
Profile Image for Murtaza .
664 reviews3,402 followers
August 11, 2022
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Mohammed bin Salman, MBS, has become such a bête noire in the West that people have forgotten the uncomfortable fact that he remains genuinely popular among many of his own people. Part of this popularity can be attributed to a regime information control in Saudi Arabia, but a lot of his support is also genuine and even logical. Most Saudis are under the age of thirty, but they have been ruled by a hidebound genotocracy for decades that has embarrassed them while squandering much of their wealth. Unlike every other Saudi leader, MBS is also from this young generation. He shares many of the same frustrations as his young compatriots about the Saudi ruling class, and also holds similar views about the importance of technology and lifestyle liberalism. MBS arose from relatively anonymity inside the royal family and somehow smashed all the existing power structures to claim the crown prince role for himself. He’s done some good things with that power, including loosening social controls on women, reigning in the tyrannical religious police, and trying to attract foreign investment. He also famously rounded up a crowd of the richest, most corrupt Saudis and forced them to return their ill-gotten wealth at gunpoint while held captive in a hotel. How many ordinary people haven’t fantasized about a jubilee like that in their own country?

When he first emerged, I also had hopes for MBS. There was some reason to believe that as a young person he might elevate the voices of the many other young, talented, and progressive Saudis around the world who have long wanted to see a real change in their country. After a few years in power, however, it is clear that MBS is a much darker figure than most had anticipated. If I were to identify his root problem, it would be his staggering hubris which probably crosses the line into full megalomania. MBS truly believes that money can buy anything, including global affection, a modern economy, and even real-life science fiction cities. You probably don’t need to know at this point that he’s thin-skinned – his decision to murder a Washington Post columnist and Saudi gadfly has already made him famous on that score. Unconscionable schemes like NEOM and The Line, from which the global consulting industry has been happy to capitalize, have further revealed how vulnerable he is to any slick Westerner stroking his ego. MBS has some sort of positive idea of wanting his country to be modern, but he’s not interested in doing the humble, boring, intergenerational work of building institutions. Instead he has decided to try and buy shortcuts to modernity, allowing every vulture in the world to descend on the the financial patrimony of the Saudi people.

The world of oil is coming to an end this century, which is something that MBS does seem to understand. To survive, his country needs to transition from being run by a clan of scheming half-brothers gorging themselves on sales of a single finite energy resource into an impersonal, administrative state that entrusts the Saudi people themselves with developing their country. Saudi Arabia doesn’t have to be democratic to be stable or prosperous. But it does need independent governing, economic, and security institutions that even authoritarian-capitalist countries like Singapore and China possess. These institutions should have the continuity and independent culture necessary to maintain and refine their expertise regardless of who is in power. States with far less money, like Turkey and Iran, are able to punch above their weight in conflicts with the Saudis because they are run far more impersonally rather than being simply family property. MBS has certainly shaken up the al-Saud half-brothers system of governance by imprisoning and bullying his other family members. But he has not built an impersonal state: He’s simply replaced himself as the top dog in the family to whom all must answer. This is a recipe not for stable modern governance but for a regime that lasts only as long as one man, similar to what the Qaddafis and Assads of the world have built elsewhere in the Arab world.

In one passage of this book it’s mentioned that MBS has mused to others about potentially extending his lifespan for hundreds of years, using longevity technologies popular in Silicon Valley. I once had occasion to read thousands of hacked emails from Saif Qaddafi and noticed he was also interested in these therapies. While I doubt that MBS is going to be ruling his country in the year 2245, he is still a young man and is almost certainly going to be around in a few decades, barring a horrible coup by some Khomeini-like figure. As such, MBS may be one of the most consequential leaders in Saudi history. Like I said earlier too, like it or not, he’s also genuinely popular with a lot of his people, particularly the young. Leaders who stay in power a long time don’t tend to become more humble or self-critical, but we are going to have to hope that somehow MBS proves to be an exception. He’s not going anywhere, and, for the good of his own people, as well as the world, we can only hope that he learns something from his mistakes.
Profile Image for Tomas Bella.
192 reviews400 followers
October 20, 2021
Napínavé ako detektívka, vraždy, peniaze, intrigy, len všetko je to skutočný príbeh chlapíka, ktorého poznáte z TV ako človeka, ktorý nechal rozštvrtiť tureckého novinára na saudskej ambasáde, ale v jeho živote je v skutočnosti oveľa viac fascinujúcich inšpiratívnych príbehov!
Dávno som už nečítal takú knihu, kde som po 300 stranách vedel o toľko viac o svete, nevadí, ak pred prvou kapitolou ani neviete ukázať Rijád na mape, je to čítavé a celé fascinujúce.
4,688 reviews48 followers
September 9, 2020
I won this book in a goodreads drawing.

Mohammed bin Salman was little known until a few years ago, when he began his rise to power in Saudi Arabia. He really came to fame during the Khashoggi scandal, when a reporter was lured into the Saudi's Turkey Embassy, murdered, dissected, and smuggled out of the country in diplomatic bags. Suddenly, everybody knew his name.

The authors go through his life of accumulating power in Saudi Arabia, until he is the de facto leader of the whole country. Some fascinating stuff, but there is a problem of context. MBS seems to be doing something similar to European monarchs during the Age of Absolutism. Is this a necessary step in development from Monarchy to democracy?

What should concern the authors the most is the lack of blowback to the Khashoggi incident. Not that long ago, there would have been repercussions to the death of a famous reporter. Now, so many think that reporters are enemies of the people that nothing much happened. That should scare the heck out of reporters, but they're too arrogant to see it.

Other than the requisite amount of sucking up to Obama, the book isn't bad, but does have the weakness of lack of context.
Profile Image for J.M. Hushour.
Author 6 books190 followers
September 14, 2021
Bin Salman (referred to MBS in the intellignence and diplomatic community) is one of the many grandsons of Ibn Saud, founder of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. MBS's pops, Salman, is currently king. MBS, through a series of convoluted maneuverings that could at the very flightiest be called "Machiavellian", is currently crown prince, stepping over many other second and third tier members of the royal family to become heir to the throne.
MBS is one of those guys who is a bit of a conundrum, to put it lightly. In his 30s, McDonald's aficionado and self proclaimed video game nut, MBS is well placed to perhaps finally jerk Saudi Arabia into the 21st century. He is a smart, savvy dude, with the kind of meticulous planning and attention to detail that leads people into graph addictions and an unhealthy amount of "progress indicator ratios" or some other such management-speak bullshit. His grandiose visions for Saudi Arabia include letting women drive, robots, opening up the country's outstanding and endlessly fascinating archaeological sites, flying cars, and moving away from the Kingdom's long-standing fundamentalist, highly conservative religious strictures.
He kind of reminds me of the Kingpin from Daredevil. You kind of feel for the guy, but then he crushes a poor fucker's head in the door of his Jeep Cherokee repeatedly. His aspirations and ideas are certainly admirable, but then journalists get sawed into pieces on his watch. There's plenty of nefarious shit going down in this work. The authors deal with it distantly and trimly. Is MBS responsible for all the heinous stuff they're describing? Or is it simply symptomatic of state-running in a state that has no democracy, but a bunch of filthy rich indolent royals who have yachts full of Russian strippers and are worth more than a small country. MBS doesn't like that either, but his methods are what is questionable.
Beyond that, this is a great look at modern Saudi Arabia, and the Middle East writ large over the last few years, commendable on those merits alone, but MBS is a fascinating dude, despite what are apparently some egregious flaws.
Profile Image for Emiliya Bozhilova.
1,156 reviews175 followers
January 3, 2022
”We Saudis deserve better.”
Jamal Khashoggi, 2017

Странно изказване за саудитец, мъж, с отлична журналистическа кариера по цял свят, често пъти в полза на родната му Саудитска Арабия, самият той - издънка на едно от видните саудитски семейства, положило основите на благополучието си при управлението на основателя Ибн Сауд. Странно изказване за държава, къпеща се в петродолари, изпращаща свои младежи за безплатно образование в чужбина, земята на единствената Мека, в чиято посока голяма част от света се моли по пет пъти на ден. Но и държавата, в която жените започнаха на шофират чак през 2017 г., земята на уахабизма, неразривно преплетен в управлението на тези земи от възникването си през 18-ти век, насочващ правоверните да живеят така, както уахабитите си въобразяват че е било правилно по времето на Пророка през 7-ми век, само с малко електронни джаджи за гарнитура (но, виж, музеите се считат за идолопоклонничество).

Саудитска Арабия е абсолютна монархия от средновековен тип и е страна, която лесно създава автократи като сегашния престолонаследник Мохамед бин Салман, който е реалният владетел и ще бъде първия владетел “трето поколение”. От 1953 г. саудитските крале са все синовете на многодетния Ибн Сауд, един от които е и крал Салман, бащата на Мохамед. Детайлното и увлекателно журналистическо разследване хвърля доста светлина върху целия регион и неговите противоречия.

Твърде много пари. Но Мохамед е достатъчно умен, за да знае, че петролът не е неизчерпаем ресурс, а приходите от поклонничеството в Мека често са по-малко от разходите, и тези пари трябва да са буферът за изграждане на едно по-различно бъдещ��. В резултат той инвестира в компании като Тесла и Uber, прокарва Визия 2030, където в Саудитска Арабия ще има напълно автономни градове на бъдещето с летящи автомобили, както предвижда сякаш излезлият от научна фантастика проект NEOM. Отваря (макар и в строго ограничени рамки) страната за туристически посещения. Най-сетне отменя забраната за жените да шофират. Въвежда данъци (за първи път от основаването на държавата). Налага показатели за спазване (KPI) на Министврството на икономиката и други служби - нещо нечувано, защото в Саудитска Арабия просто не се прави така. Там институции и без това няма, има само по-близки и далечни връзки с кралския двор, и едни услуги и пари, така стават нещата.

И същевременно всеки, самостоятелно изискал и надигнал глас същите тези неща да се случат, попада в затвора или е убит и разфасован като жертвено животно в саудитското посолство в Истанбул - като журналиста Джамал Кашоги - п�� заповед на същия този работохолик с 16 часов работен ден, Мохамед бин Салман. Или изчезва някъде, без значение от обществено положение, както мнозина негови роднини и кандидати за престола. Или - след престой в службите - кротко подписва прехвърляне на активи за милиарди на държавата. Така Мохамед бори корупцията (и събира някой и друг долар за черни дни), и под ударите попадат далеч не невинни саудитски гиганти като строителната Бинладин Груп (на семейството на Осама Бен Ладен) или Огер на ливанската фамилия Харири, дала двама премиери на Ливан (и прокарала там съответното саудитско влияние). Ливанският премиер Саид Харири дори - по финансови и политически съображения - е държан за заложник в Риад, принуден да подаде оставка в ефир и спасен единствено от усилията на френския президент Еманюел Макрон.

Книгата на двамата автори - разследващи журналисти е актуално, образователно и умело поднасяне на куп факти и анализи от кухнята на Персийския Залив (който арабите възмутено наричат Арабски), с петролните пипала, плъзнали по цял свят (включително за разпространение на уахабизма) и преплетени с куп други пипала (като тези на САЩ и Турция, та дори и Китай, както и с тези на на Джеф Безос, Илон Мъск, или на фирми, ковящи световната политика като McKinsey, BCG, Blackwater, Blackstone). Светът, какъвто е в някои свои части, и какъвто никога, никога не трябва да допускаме да стане и наш. Защото прилики с родината ни - най-вече институционални - уви, има.
Profile Image for Rachel Zhou.
9 reviews3 followers
September 6, 2020
From the authors of Billion Dollar Whale comes another riveting account of the meteoritic rise of one of the world’s youngest and most powerful leaders.

There are two points I admire the most about this book. First is the details. Much of what was described here were tiny, subtle, yet undeniably important details that fill in missing pieces of public news stories that everyone thought they knew already. But once exposed here, it invokes an AHA! moment that fills in the gaps on the how, and even more crucially, the why.

Second is the objectivity. Unfortunately most mainstream news outlets these days lean one way or another on the political spectrum and hardly stray even one step from their own agendas. Fox, CNN, and The Washington Post come to mind. The moral lecturing and intellectual snobbery are apparent, and frankly, tiring with these media outlets. But this book has none of that. It presents facts and doesn’t dwell on personal emotions or opinions. It presents both the achievements and shortcomings of its subject, with a reminder to the audience that MBS is someone here to stay, and there is much more to come on his story in the following decades.
Profile Image for Asma.
304 reviews50 followers
November 30, 2020
بختصار الكتاب ليس لمن يعرف ما يحدث في السعوديه .. بمعني لو كنت سعودي او تقرأ و تعرف اخبارها من الصحف العالميه و الاخبار ف النت بذلك تكون عارف محتوي الكتاب.
هو موجه للقارئ الغربي الذي لا يعرف شيْ عن محمد بن سلمان ولا السعودية

و عليه رأي في الكتاب بانه سطحي تماما. كل ما فعله الكاتب هو جمع الاخبار المتداوله في الصحف و سردها في الكتاب بدون اي مجهود للبحث او التحليل او اي معلومه جديده قدمها لي

معلومات كثيره مكرره في كتب صدرت قبل عن محمد بن سلمان , ما فائده التكرار لا اعلم.
Profile Image for Muna G..
5 reviews1 follower
June 1, 2021
Purchasing this book, I was hesitant. Maybe both due to my patriotism towards the kingdom and my admiration for MBS. But because of those exact reasons I chose to read it and see what Mr.Hope had to say. Having been born and raised in Saudi, an absolute monarchy, with citizens devoted to their religion and their rulers, some of the stories dont come off as shocking. Our norms here don’t really see cutting off a prince as a shock, in fact, we support any executive actions taken towards improving the country, as any citizen should for their homeland.

That being said, I found the overall tone of the book flattering more than anything. It portrayed our crown prince as the leader our country desperately needs to catch up with the rest of the world. Becoming such a persistent authoritative figure in bettering the conditions in Saudi from all aspects at such a young age is nothing but a compliment!
Please excuse me to address some issues mentioned in the book that I have enough knowledge about to counterclaim;

1. “Under Saudi law, if a wife tries to run away from her husband—even if because of domestic abuse—he can call the police and have her arrested for disrespecting him.” As an almost law graduate myself, I assure you that nothing in Sharia Law (Saudi law) states such notion. Sharia law if you don’t know consist of Quran rulings and the teachings of prophet mohammad, to quote him “How does one of you beat his wife as he beats the stallion camel and then embrace her?” And to quote the words of the holy book “Live with them in kindness.” Surat An-Nisa 4:19

2. “These were cruel consequences for a young woman simply asking for rights widely championed around the world.” Yes Lujain may have risen in a time where all she advocated for was more liberty in a conservative state. However, you fail to mention the fact that her latest arrest was due to her acts of treason against her nation by conspiring with the Qatari government. You can look up the 8,000,000,000 QR wired to her account, I’m sure your “investigative” skills will aid you to find it easily.

3. “group of technical officers flew to Istanbul to sweep the consulate for bugs and recording devices they suspected the Turkish government had planted; they found none, or rather, they missed all of them.” Your repetition over and over about how the Turkish government had wiretaps in a sovereign Saudi embassy yet failing to highlight the illegality of such actions comes off to any reader as completely biased. It is internationally agreed upon that such invasion of sovereignty is absolutely unacceptable and susceptible to international sanctions. Yet you choose to continue perplexity towards the Saudi government only.

In conclusion, I found the book a page turner and very entertaining (but that’s probably because I have this bad indulgence for gossip :p) but I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone who isn’t familiar to Saudi politics and norms.
Profile Image for Amy.
173 reviews14 followers
October 4, 2020
*** 4 Stars ***

After recently living in the Middle East for a year I was very excited to read this and it did not disappoint.
This provided an understanding Mohammed bin Salman and his rise to power along with interesting insight to the US relationship with Saudi Arabia.
A lot of discussions regarding the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the infamous sheikhdown at the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh.
Excellent story telling with attention to detail, I highly recommend.

Special Thanks to NetGalley and Hachette Books for allowing me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Vivek.
358 reviews19 followers
January 29, 2022
Hooter: An Investigative Journalists' POV into the rise of MBS and his vision for Saudi Arabia

Piecing together through candid interviews, researching through documents - these two journalists have pieced together a fast paced thrilling behind the scenes look of the rise of MBS as he navigates the political web of Saudi Arabia and the interlinked geo political world to achieve his vision for himself and his nation. Building up from a background of the political ecosystem that he landed up in and how major pieces around the world play in for him or against him, you get a sense that politcal dramas like Game of Thrones often don't have to go too far from reality to garner inspiration. The petrodollars, religious sentiments across the spectrum, the new restless demographics, the urge to create a legacy - the authors try to cover a lot of aspects that made it to the public domain - Khashoggi, the Ritz Jail, Davos in the desert, NEOM, Trump's visit, Qatar blockade and numerous other interlinked events in the region and what was at stake behind the scenes. The interviews I think help build a softer aspect of the personality that MBS is against the cold hard dry facts of the events and the actions that were taken making for an intriguing political thriller whose story has just begun - as we know his legacy is probably yet to be written.

There hasn't been much literature I have accessed about the Middle Eastern political ecosystem and I feel this has been a good read to get a sense of it specifically from MBS point of view and Saudi's Vision 2030.
Profile Image for Walt.
10 reviews
August 1, 2022
Key insigths of the book:

Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) has ruthlessly consolidated power to himself through the last five to ten years. He has a clear vision of transforming the country to an international and modern tech hub before the year 2030. As he embarks on this journey, oil revenues are channeled on new infrastructure and technology projects (e.g. tech city Neom). What remains to be seen is whether money comes over moral and ethics with the international community.

Overall, the book was thoroughly researched and well-written. Can recommend this one to those who would like to learn more about arabic history and culture. Moreover, the book does a good job at describing the power dynamics prevelant at the Persin Gulf.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Eugene.
29 reviews2 followers
May 21, 2022
When money meets power, bad things happen. After watching "The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia" on PBS Frontline, I thought I had seen and knew enough about MBS. I thought wrong. This book is based on accounts of people who know MBS or who has faced his wrath. It has chilling and terrifying stories of the man who sees himself as the saviour of Saudi Arabia. Each chapter has a more shocking and disturbing tale. The ruthless crown prince cannot be stopped. Given how closely guarded the Royal Court is, the authors did a good job putting this together.
Profile Image for Miroslav Hudak.
24 reviews1 follower
November 24, 2021
Not often, there is a book, that has NO positive figures. This is one of those books.
Spoiled, corrupt, entitled... and above all of them, the star of the show, Mr. BoneSaw, ruthless "visionary," with cohorts of greedy financial institutions and investors, tailing him to get a bite of Saudi wealth. Actually, pretty sad.
What a ride this book was. Interesting, nicely written.
I was listening to it on Audible and it was a treat as well.
16 reviews
August 15, 2022
A deep dive into the rise of MBS’s long and much awaited rule over the kingdom. I came across details which had never been posted on any online platform.

Incredibly insightful and positively thrilling read.
Profile Image for Chuck A.
29 reviews1 follower
May 8, 2021
Not a bad book. I didn’t know anything about MBS prior to this and he’s a shady guy. This is a rare non-bias (from what i gathered) account on the guys’ life written in 2020. Give it a shot.
Profile Image for Denise.
6,307 reviews103 followers
March 27, 2021
From seemingly out of nowhere, the man known as MBS rose to become a powerful global player in a few short years - or at least that's how it looked from the outside. The authors do an excellent job providing background and context, tracing his earlier years and the many internal squabbles and power plays within the Saudi royal family through which he manoeuvred himself into his current position one step from the throne before tracking his rise to international recognition. By casting himself as a reformer and visionary, he garnered praise and wooed investors across the globe, but the honeymoon phase has been well and truly over since at the very latest the brutal, dangerously miscalculated and badly bungled murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018 if not before. The prince has proven that in pursuit of his goals and the power he covets, he can be not only ambitious and audacious, but brutally ruthless, wielding his power with a heavy hand and more than willing to spill blood in addition to shelling out sheer unfathomable sums of money to get what he wants. It shouldn't surprise anyone to hear that he once evinced an admiration for the most famous work of one Niccolò Machiavelli - he does rather seem to be using The Prince as his chief playbook. Perhaps someone should educate him on the particulars of the swift fall and ignominious end that followed the rise to power of Cesare Borgia, on whom Machiavelli's book was based.
Profile Image for Adam Znasik.
85 reviews103 followers
February 2, 2021
Ozaj pozoruhodná kniha o chlapovi, ktorý, ak nezasiahne vis maior, bude najbližších 50 rokov vládnuť najbohatšiemu ropnému štátu. Kniha sa dá čítať, aj keď o onom konci sveta neviete absolútne nič. Odbočky do histórie sú akurátne časté a akurátne dlhé, čo nebýva v tomto type kníh, poznačených americkou kultúrou "z jedného long readu minimálne 500 stranová kniha" zvykom.

Je to príbeh Saudskej Arábie a korunného princa Mohameda bin Salmana, ktorý za 10 rokov prevzal moc v kráľovstve, zbavil sa komplet všetkých kritikov, dal pozatvárať pol kráľovskej rodiny za korupciu, vydupal si miesto na svetovej scéne, začal vojnu Jemene, nechal rozkrájať novinára (poznáte z TV), spustil IPO Saudi Aramca, kúpil podiel v každej americkej firme, na ktorú si spomeniete, je najväčší podielnik v najväčšom investičnom fonde v dejinách, vedie najväčší suverénny investičný fond v galaxii, povolil ženám šoférovať auto a stretávať sa s mužmi v kaviarni, rozhasil celý blízkovýchodný status quo a dohádal sa s takmer každým na svete, spôsobil zápornú cenu ropy na jar a teraz spustil výstavbu najväčšieho mesta na zelenej lúke od čias Romula a Rema. Keďže je to MBS, tak by sa mu to, na rozdiel od jeho predchodcov, aj mohlo podariť - to mesto sa volá NEOM a tiež znáte z TV.
Profile Image for Heather.
386 reviews
February 3, 2021
Almost unbelievable- but proof that truth is stranger than fiction.
Profile Image for Megan.
179 reviews7 followers
January 24, 2022
Certainly an entertaining read, but more sensational than educational, imo. I understand that not everyone is a fan of the dry, academic style read when learning history or about governments and power in foreign nations. However, I feel there are some investigative journalists (for example, Joby Warrick, Bob Woodard...and Patrick O’Keefe really knocked it out of the park with last year’s “Empire of Pain”) that manage to execute a perfect blend of both, which is really what makes the difference between a 5 star rating and a 4 star rating, to me.

Not that this wasn’t an excellent read. It was, and the authors certainly seemed to do their research. But I would say it’s likely primed more for someone who doesn’t have a ton of knowledge on the Middle East, or Saudi Arabia in general. Sorta like MBS 101. The stories that people who watch the news and are vaguely aware of, but the same people who don’t really pay constant attention to Middle Eastern politics (I kind of have to, given my academic major at my university concerns international relations in the Middle East, haha).

I don’t live in Saudi Arabia and it’s been awhile since I’ve talked to a few Saudi friends I have (had? Hard to know now what people will come and go and come... and go, in your life) who are either from there, live there still, or visit often. But some of the “facts” seemed off. Like the law about men jailing their wives for disrespect because they ran away from domestic abuse... that doesn’t sound right to me, but I’ll have to check with my professor in this case to clarify.

It’s hard to know how to feel about MBS, because on one hand, he has brought some great reforms to Saudis, and seems to recognize that the Old Guard is no longer in touch with Saudi Arabia’s 60% youth population (I believe that’s correct?), who have been longing for reforms in their home country, so that they don’t have to go to places like Bahrain, the UAE, or Qatar to live a lifestyle of modernity. Then again, some of his ideas are quite outlandish (the whole Vision 2030 project and his idea that people who live in this “futuristic city” - himself of course, as leader - will outlive the rest of the population, possibly by hundreds of years, and experience flying cars, winter snow in the summer... basically sounds like living in a Disneyland on crack).

It’s hard to speak about the whole Khashoggi incident, because while it certainly would appear MBS either ordered the murder or didn’t exactly condemn it (I really can’t imagine anyone from the kingdom murdering someone so high profile without receiving MBS’s go-ahead first... and they used government planes, so...yeah). Lol. However, I also realize that the Western media doesn’t just sensationalise domestic politics, but at times has really screwed up bigtime when it comes to reporting on another country’s politics - particularly the Middle Eastern ones - as if the reporter’s opinions are synonymous with those of the population at large.

Good, fast and fun read, but if you are already quite knowledgeable about MBS, you’ll doubtfully find much new in this book. I also wonder just how liberal the economy and his reforms can possibly become, if he’s insistent on silencing critics and not allowing citizens to have political rights. Kinda drives me crazy how medieval the Kingdom has been (at least in the past, I know some of this has changed) yet, the princes will leave Saudi Arabia and frolic around on their nearly billion dollar yachts with girls in bikinis (then go back home to Saudi Arabia and demand for the women to be covered in public). Can you say hypocritical?!

MBS is still young though, with a lot to learn, and he does seem very eager to learn, which I see as a positive sign. He’s open to listening to experts and leaders from western countries explain how to introduce liberal reforms, and I can only hope he heeds this advice, learns from the mistakes he’s made thus far, and one day, truly becomes the King that Saudi Arabia has long been waiting for - and deserving of. If that’s a touch too optimistic... well, I’d rather hope for the best in situations like these that are far beyond our control.
Profile Image for Cav.
627 reviews77 followers
January 11, 2021
This was an interesting and very detailed account of the rise of Mohammed bin Salman, also referred to as "MBS" through the Saudi Royal family.
Authors Bradley Hope and Justin Scheck are long-time writers for the Wall St. Journal.

Justin Scheck (L) and Bradley Hope (R) :

Blood and Oil: Mohammed bin Salman's Ruthless Quest for Global Power is a somewhat no-frills, matter-of-fact look inside the inner workings of the Al Saud, or House of Saud - the ruling royal family of Saudi Arabia.
The book details MBS's rise to power, much of his power-brokering and influencing, as well as many other pivotal events in recent Saudi history.
The authors cover many of the central figures and events surrounding MBS's rise to power here. Among them:

*MBS's desire for economic reform, and plans to stop the "economic leakage" of Saudi dollars overseas. The book covers a broad range of plans by MBS to help the country wean itself away from an ever-diminishing supply of petro-dollars. Some of what MBS has planned seems (to be honest) borderline ridiculous. There was talk of raising an artificial moon, and having glowing sand on the beaches, among other pie-in-the-sky dreams...
For MBS to attract a broad range of Western-minded tourist clientele to Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom needs to do some heavy lifting towards modernizing itself, and make some serious efforts to get away from fundamental Wahhabist doctrine. Fundamental Islam is not largely compatible with modern material consumerism and the Western-style concepts of tourism.
I think these will be some serious roadblocks in the way of any true Saudi economic development.

*The 2017 Ritz-Carlton imprisonment of prominent Saudi royals and businessmen. An unprecedented top-secret effort spearheaded by MBS, it was both a power play, and an "Anti-corruption" measure. The book details the many prominent Saudis who were held against their will for weeks at a time. Some were tortured. At least one person died.

*MBS's relationships with recent US Administrations. Barack Obama and Donald Trump are covered. The authors note that Barack Obama stoked distrust and fostered bad will towards Saudi Arabia by signing the nuclear deal with Iran. Iran is the center of Shia Islam, and the mortal enemies of the Saudi regime, who hold the central power in Sunni Islam, as well as occupy the Islamic World's most holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

*Trump's 2018 visit with Rex Tillerson and Jared Kushner. To the point above - MBS was looking forward to a fresh start with the Trump administration. Steve Bannon, Jared Kushner, and Donald Trump would fly to Saudi Arabia in 2018. MBS pulled out all the stops to welcome the US President - including lavish ceremonies, and gigantic banners featuring Trump's portrait. Unfortunately, the authors write, this did not have the desired effect on Trump. Looking to foster a close relationship with the US President, the authors write that Trump ended up viewing the meeting as a financial transaction. Something made clear to MBS when he met with Trump in Washington, and the President pulled out cheesy placards, showing how much money would be coming in from the oil-rich kingdom.
*The 2017 purchase of the Salvator Mundi painting by MBS, the circa 1500 painting by Italian Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci. It was sold at auction for a record-setting $450.3 million on 15 November 2017 by Christie's in New York. The largest sum ever paid for a piece of artwork before. MBS had plans to use it to draw tourists into an elaborate art exhibition.
*The 2018 assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and its aftermath. The book detail a brief history of the relationship between Khashoggi and the Saudi royalty. There was a long history there.
The book also mentions the incident in a fair amount of detail. Organized by close MBS associate Saud al Qahtani, the embassy was first emptied of Turkish staff, and then swept for bugs before Khashoggi arrived. Khashoggi was tortured and his body dismembered, before Qauanti's team used a decoy dressed in his clothes and shown leaving out the back door of the embassy to throw off investigative efforts.

Jamal Khashoggi :
Although I did enjoy this one, and found it to be full of detailed information, I will say that I did find the writing to be a bit dry at times. This is most likely a subjective thing, however, as I can be fairly picky about this kind of thing...
This was still a very well-researched and presented book that I did enjoy.
4 stars.
Profile Image for Justas Šaltinis.
64 reviews11 followers
January 11, 2021
"The McKinsey and BCG people were certainly smart, but such consultants were also mercenaries, and they had an intrinsic conflict of interest: It never behooved that consultants to say no."

"Aramco, in contract, was basically the biggest mom-and-pop in the world. It was accountable to one man, the Saudi king, and under no obligation to follow anyone else' rules."

"They knew that after a succession in Saudi Arabia, the flow of money shift to the family of the new king."
Profile Image for Andrés Torres.
16 reviews
January 12, 2021
I was extremely pleased with this book. The amount of investigation done by Hope and Scheck is surreal. To be able to have such a detailed story on one of the most powerful and secretive man in the world is truly astonishing.
Profile Image for Paulius Pikelis.
30 reviews12 followers
October 4, 2020
The rise of MBS through the eyes of investigate jounalists. How MBS got unlimited/unchecked power and how the world looks like when u have unlimited money. I was keenly following any stories BBC wrote on Saudi Arabia, but having read the book, I feel that BBC was very shallow and never got to the core. A good read to get a sense of how Saudi Arabia changed in the last several years and the (global) role Saudi Arabia's crown prince plays.
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