In a sensational interview with the Washington Post, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince and de-facto leader Muhammad bin Salman has blamed the US and its allies for putting pressure on Saudi Arabia to export the extremist Wahhabi ideology during the Cold War as a means to counter the influence of the Soviet Union in the wider Muslim world.
Slaman’s statement is unequivocally true as the US constantly worked to prop up monarchical regimes in the Arab world at the expense of secular Arab Nationalist governments whose style of government and geo-political struggle for post-colonial liberation automatically drew them closer to the USSR. In Asia, during the Soviet intervention on behalf of the legitimate Afghan government in the 1980s, the United States collaborated with Riyadh to fund and arm the Mujahideen which ultimately mutated into Al-Qaeda.
Saudi Arabia continues to be accused of funding terrorist groups throughout the Middle East who practice Takfiri extremism that is related to Wahhabism. Now though, Muhammad bin Salman has shifted the blame back to the United States, implying that it was a mistake for Riyadh to aid the US in the spreading of a Wahhabism. This statement is somewhat ironic given the fact that Wahhabism remains the official ideology of Saudi Arabia, but it does show that at minimum, Muhammad bin Salman is deeply concerned with changing the soft power perception of Saudi Arabia in the wider world, while on the other end of the spectrum, the statements indicate that he seeks to weaken the power of Wahhabi clerics who continue to be the biggest obstacle in the way of his consolidation of power.