Bradley Hope and Justin Scheck, investigative reporters for The Wall Street Journal, approach the topic differently in Blood and Oil: Mohammed bin Salmans The Ruthless Search for Global Power. For a certain type of reader, this book would be ideal. It is vivid and well written, and draws a sharp portrait of the man in his heart.
But be warned that this is a book with an appealing but narrow theme: MBS’s lust for wealth and how it relates to his quest for power. On that topic, Hope and Scheck have done a great dig and discovered some eye-catching tales.
However, many of the stories are not source. They often look credible, but it is impossible to be sure. And how F. Gregory Gause, one of the leading Western academic experts in Saudi Arabia, likes to say, when it comes to the royal family, those who know how to speak and those who speak do not know.
Consequently, because of this focus, geostrategic and geoeconomic factors often take short cuts in their narrative. Thus, they have a whole chapter on MBS buying a Leonardo da Vinci painting for $ 450 million, but only a few pages on the decision to intervene in Yemen, arguably Riyadh the most important (and harmful) strategy of 30 years last.
At times, they assert a story in line with their emphasis on MBS materials at the expense of these other dynamics. So the 2020 oil war with Russia, in which Riyadh flooded the market to force Moscow to agree on collective production limits, is reduced to an MBS by-product that overloads pride.
Whatever role the ego may have played in it, this version ignores the fact that the price of oil was falling, and the Saudis and other producers desperately needed to stabilize it, but Russia refused to do so. Moreover, the Saudi decision to flood the market and lower the price below $ 20 per barrel worked. This forced Moscow to agree to production cuts and thus was a major victory for Riyadh.
Any alliance is difficult. Even Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt were disappointed with each other let alone Stalin and de Gaulle.
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