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Book Reviews

Blood and Oil By Bradley Hope and Justin Scheck

In a brilliant investigative book, Hope and Scheck explore the intricate relationship between the future of the House of Saud and the world’s most widely-used commodity, oil. Long the primary underpinning of the power held by Saudi Arabia on the global stage, this book explores the question of how the future of black gold will impact the future of the Saudi state and particularly the power wielded by its young ambitious new ruler, Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman (MBS). 

Bin Salman’s meteoric rise to power has taken place alongside wide scale assurances for reform in Saudi Arabia’s traditional society, including empowering women, diversifying the country’s investment base and moderating radical elements. Such lofty promises have led to his being courted by scores of Western actors, from Silicon Valley entrepreneurs to leading American political actors. All have been encouraged by his vision for his country and the role that they could play in the future of the kingdom.

In Blood and Oil Hope and Scheck trace the rise of this enigmatic future King, now the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia. Unpacking the complex relationship he has had with the West’s desire to see a Saudi Arabia more aligned with their values, this work traces MBS’s ability to woo world leaders alongside his activities which represent anything but western values. These have included ordering the execution of renowned journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the lock-up of 300 political opponents in a luxury hotel turned prison.

Hope and Scheck attempt to portray a man who is quite literally living between two worlds, as both the 'Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques' and a pragmatic 21st century leader.


Delving into great detail, the authors depict MBS’s extensive achievements alongside his shortcomings, without taking a condescending approach. They attempt to portray a man who is quite literally living between two worlds, as both the ‘Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’ and a pragmatic 21
st century leader. The book explores a man both dependent on the support of the Wahhabist clergy and who at the same time, seeks to be perceived by the international community as a moderating element.  

Blood and Oil is a gripping must read for all scholars and enthusiasts of the region looking to gain a more comprehensive understanding of a man who will undoubtedly play a central role in his country, the Gulf and the MENA for years to come. The decisions of the third generation of the House of Saud alongside the potentially declining role of oil, will arguably shape the Middle East in unprecedented ways. An understanding of the quest for power of the complex man leading one of the region’s largest oil producing economies is indeed integral for comprehending the way this complex region will develop in the 21st century and beyond.  

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