Ali Shihabi debated journalist Jamal Khashoggi on Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s (MBS) reforms. Both Khashoggi and Shihabi agree that MBS is reformer. They disagree on how he is going about those reforms. Shihabi points out that no developing country has successfully undergone dramatic change using a pluralistic system; you need a benevolent autocracy to successfully implement these reforms. The crown prince has also done more on reform than is commonly reported. For example, MBS is not just allowing women to drive but working to fully integrate Saudi women into the economy. It is important to remember that throughout Saudi history, kings have made decisions without consulting the rest of the royal family, such as when King Fahd decided to allow US troops on Saudi soil in 1990. MBS is not exceptional in this regard. Saudi was on a path toward gradual liberalization until 1979 when the Iranian revolution brought this incremental reform to an abrupt end. As a result, the Kingdom became a much more conservative state. MBS is undoing this. Ali Shihabi also debated Human Rights Watch executive director for the Middle East Sarah Leah Whitson on the war in Yemen. Saudi Arabia went to war in Yemen because it felt its security was threatened and, if it allowed the Houthis to develop into a militia like Hezbollah, its security could be existentially threatened.

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