The political landscape is changing as the Covid-19 outbreak undermines Donald Trump and his allies, such as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
9 hours ago
The fear caused by the coronavirus outbreak is greater than that provoked by a serious war because everybody is in the front line and everybody knows that they are a potential casualty. The best parallel is the terror felt by people facing occupation by a hostile foreign army; even if, in the present case, the invader comes in the form of a minuscule virus.
The political consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic are already vast because its advance, and the desperate measures taken to combat it, entirely dominate the news agenda and will go on doing so for the foreseeable future, although it is in the nature of this unprecedented event that nothing can be foreseen.
History has not come to a full stop because of the virus, however: crucial events go on happening, even if they are being ignored by people wholly absorbed by the struggle for survival in the face of a new disease. Many of these unrecognised but very real crises are taking place in the Middle East, the arena where great powers traditionally stage confrontations fought out by their local proxies.
Top of the list of critical new conflicts that have been overshadowed by the pandemic is the battle for the throne of Saudi Arabia: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS), whose dwindling band of admirers describe him as “mercurial”, this month launched a sort of palace coup by arresting his uncle, Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, and his cousin, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, whom he displaced as crown prince in 2017.