Blood and Oil: Mohammed Bin Salman’s Ruthless Quest for Global Power

Hachette. Sept. 2020. 368p. ISBN 9780306846663. $29.
Award-winning journalists Hope and Scheck present a masterful biography on Saudi prince Mohammed bin Salman, commonly known as MBS. This work reveals how the prince overcame what could be perceived as impossible odds to be Saudi Arabia’s strongman. For a long time, Saudi princes were known to be glamorous spenders and cared more deeply about enriching their own pockets. The authors show bin Salman bucked this trend by putting his nationality first before enrichment and crafting an image as a reformer in order to entice business to Saudi Arabia. He loosened Islamic laws to appeal to Western eyes, most notably repealing a ban on women driving. This image as an outside reformer shielded a ruthlessness that the authors do not shy away from divulging—they clearly illustrate how he crafted an inner circle of loyalists and excluded those who questioned or challenged his decision-making. The narrative continues as the prince mercilessly attacked critics on social media, imprisoning them and confiscating their money. Jamal Khashoggi’s role is also detailed as he goes from MBS messenger to martyr.
VERDICT This fast-paced, well-researched book is an excellent primer on current U.S.-Saudi relations and Middle Eastern dynamics, and will also draw in those interested in palace intrigue.
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