Ben Hubbard’s account of the life, machiavellian style and ambitions of the de facto ruler of the largest and wealthiest country in the Gulf is a fine example of talented and dogged reporting ... Overall, this is an impressively well-sourced work. There is a fascinating account of Barack Obama confronting him (though he continued US arms sales despite the war in Yemen) and an insightful description of relations between the crown prince and Jared Kushner ... Another riveting chapter is devoted to the three-week tour of the US by the crown prince in the spring of 2018 ... It would be surprising if the crown prince came out much better in later drafts of history than this impressive first one.
...[a] detailed and disturbing portrait ... [a] clear and convincing narrative ... While there are no big news revelations in MBS the book’s strength is the thoroughness of its reporting. Hubbard interviewed contacts inside the kingdom until the Saudis stopped giving him visas in 2018. Many of those he talked to chose to remain anonymous, fearing retaliation. Those he cites by name are very brave, or else as arrogant and unrepentant as M.B.S. himself ... Hubbard acknowledges that much of what M.B.S. has done for his country and its people, especially its young people, has been as admirable as it is overdue, but in this age of incipient tyrants he also understands that authoritarian rulers can be tremendously popular even when they are terribly feared ... Woven through Hubbard’s recounting of these events is the story of Khashoggi, his exile from Saudi Arabia, and his gruesome murder. It’s a narrative whose tragic end many readers will know in advance. But Hubbard does a brilliant job helping us understand Khashoggi the man as well as the operation that killed him.
... a biography with no startling revelations about the life of its subject. Yet it is a revelatory work nonetheless ... While it may not chart the inner growth of a future leader, it paints a vivid portrait of how he has altered the kingdom during his half-decade of rule.
Hubbard delivers a highly informed portrait, leavening his narrative with well-deserved skepticism, and leaves the reader wondering what lies ahead for the prince and his kingdom ... This does not purport to be a comprehensive biography. Rather, Hubbard focuses on the prince’s rise, his accretion and exercise of power, and weaves past reporting into a readily readable package. As to be expected, the prince declined to be interviewed ... Hubbard’s book is anything but a hagiography. It is definitely worth the read.
In this engaging account, Ben Hubbard shows both sides of the story, bringing his narrative alive with a host of insights, conversations, anecdotes and details ... Part of Prince Mohammed’s motivation, Hubbard suggests, may be driven by his envy of wealthier cousins ... Like other leaders, MBS has used Covid-19 to tighten the state’s control, while casting aside the opportunities to build bridges with Iran that have been taken by other Gulf states. Blaming Iran for disseminating the virus, he seems to be exploiting it to further his agenda of advancing Saudi nationalism and modernisation without loosening his grip on power.
Hubbard explores how MBS rose through the royal family by foul means and fair, and how, once in control, he developed his brand of populist authoritarianism. He has sidelined conservative clerics, loosened restrictions on women, and reached out to Western innovators and thought leaders, but his intolerance of any real or perceived questions or challenges limits the transformation’s depth. MBS, who rules with very few institutional constraints, will likely be a long-term force in global politics. Hubbard’s early assessment provides valuable insights into the prince’s MO.
A chilling look at the ascent of the current young prince of Saudi Arabia to first-in-line to succession ... Throughout, the author, synthesizing information gleaned from hundreds of interviews, displays his impressive diligence as a journalist continually blocked by censorship and intimidation ... As complete a portrait of an elusive autocrat as can be expected.
...an incisive portrait of modern Saudi Arabia and 34-year-old crown prince Mohammed bin Salman ... Hubbard enriches the narrative with informed discussions of Saudi history and culture, illuminating the kingdom’s complex blend of religious fundamentalism and technological ambition. This deeply researched and vividly written account provides essential insight into a figure poised to lead the region for the next half century.