Saudi Arabia weakened as Iran plans to consolidate gains

The Guardian |Martin Chulov: Yemen war and killing of Jamal Khashoggi have put pressure on the kingdom that shows no sign of letting up in 2019.

If 2018 was the time of Mohammed bin Salman, the next year is likely to be anything but. It started swimmingly for the young Saudi heir; buy-in at home to an ambitious reform package, support from abroad to a bellicose regional agenda, and an ongoing bromance with another powerful 30-something, Jared Kushner, whose father-in-law, Donald Trump, had anointed Saudi Arabia as the Middle East’s pre-eminent power.

The momentum fell apart in seven minutes; the time it took to kill a dissident inside the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul in October. The shocking assassination has led nearly every aspect of Prince Mohammed’s agenda to be scrutinised, and its central planks to be challenged by allies and sceptics who had initially warmed to the crown prince.

As the New Year starts, the US Senate has withdrawn support for Riyadh’s war in Yemen and openly accused Prince Mohammed of ordering the hit on Jamal Khashoggi – a claim set to haunt a path to the throne that had seemed so assured three months ago. The blockade on Qatar, another of the prince’s projects, is also looking less secure, along with a petty feud with Canada and domestic cultural and economic reforms that were meant to be harbingers of a new accommodation between citizen and state.

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