This is what Juan Cole reports today from several sources. Supposedly, as I reported here earlier, even though it was supposedly denied, the Saudi ARAMCO IPO deal is off. The new reports have it that the final decision on this came from King Salman of Saudi Arabia, the father of the power hungry Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman (MbS), who has been the main advocate of the IPO as part of his Vision 2030 plan. The king has up until now pretty much let MbS have his way on many matters, from economics, to foreign policy, to social policies (some of this good, e.g. letting women drive and putting the religious police in a book), and to dissent, including jailing lots of leading Saudi figures as well as womens’ rights advocates, including havint a 29 years female Shia activist beheaded.
In terms of the IPO, supposedly Salman was unhappy about the required transparency on financial and oil reserves issues. There are rumbles that he is unhappy about some of the other matters, with indeed MbS making major messes of a number of things, such as the disastrous war in Yemen and the failed embargo against Qatar, still stupidly in place. He is also probably not happy about some of those arrests last year, although much of this is murky. However, the most important bit in these rumors is that King Salman iis reportedly so unhappy that he is contemplating replacing MbS with somebody else as Crown Prince. Indeed, MbS is in trouble.
Now probably this last part is just wishful thinking by some in Saudi Arabia, leaking such rumors. Very likely the family link will dominate, unless Salman were to replace MbS with one of his full brothers. But it is believable that MbS may be facing some reining in, especially if indeed Salman was responsible for the ultimate cancellation of the ARAMCO IPO deal.
OTOH, given the nasty history of MbS, I admit to being a bit concerned about Salman’s future, with, for example, MbS’s predecessor as Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Nayef, finding himself arrested and held in his own palace until he agreed to step aside as CP. I note that Salman is old and reported not to be in the best of health. It may well be that we shall learn soon that his health has worsened, and that he has somehow suddenly decided to abdicate in favor of his Crown Prince…