New Delhi: When the neighbourhood is burning, you do not torch up your own home. This is what the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has accomplished by purging a large number of his fellow dynasts from the House of Saud for corruption. Few believe corruption is the reason. Since his surprise elevation by his father, the king, at the cost of another royal, also in detention, some months ago, Salman has felt obsessively compelled to consolidate his power. He may have overreached himself this time, however.

Mohammed bin Salman or MBS as he is often called is particular friends with Donald Trump, the US president, and the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Indeed, days before the purge, Kushner dashed off to Saudi Arabia. Since then, rumours have grown that MBS sought the go-ahead from Trump for the big move, and that Kushner delivered the signal. If there is anything to the rumour, then Trump, not surprisingly, has completely misjudged the situation from the angle of America’s geopolitical interests. If Mohammed bin Salman had consulted Establishment United States instead in the person of the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, or perhaps even the secretary of defence, James Mattis, he would have held off the purge indefinitely.

The strength of Saudi Arabia rests on two pillars. The first pillar is the House of Saud which supplies the royalty to the kingdom. Like all royal families, it has long ceded its moral sanction to rule, and it should not be forgotten that Osama bin Laden considered it his most sacred mission to overthrow the Saudi royal family. His hatred for the United Stated derived tangentially from its support of the Saudi royal family. It is arguable how much support bin Laden drew from the Saudi population, but it certainly cannot have been insignificant.

The second pillar of Saudi Arabia has been the hard line and murderous Wahhabi clergy that is responsible for much of the Islamist terrorism in the world. Long ago, there was a compact between the founder of the House of Saud and the clergy. The clergy would support the rulers and the rulers would support Wahhabism. It was enormously helpful further that the most sacred Islamic shrines came into the custody of the House of Saud which gave its rule the trappings of divinity. All in all, a delicate balance of power held together Saudi Arabia. If not Mohammed bin Salman, at least his father should have been wise to the fragile underpinnings of the kingdom. Yet, he has done nothing to stop his son, who has acted like a stampeding creature in a museum for Tang Sancai ceramics. If the House of Saud comes crashing down prematurely, don’t be surprised.

Mohammed bin Salman seems almost destined to end the Saudi kingdom as we know it. Disaster particularly clings to him. Under his watch, the Yemen war against the Houthi rebels was expanded. The war is stalemated, and if history is any guide, the Houthis will come to power at least once. It was also on Mohammed bin Salman’s direction that Qatar was ostracized by Saudi Arabia and three other Arab states for ostensible support to terrorism. The real reason is Qatar’s proximity to Iran. Indeed, Mohammed bin Salman is strengthening Iran’s hand by rash and thoughtless actions. Like all the new leaders who have risen in the world, MBS has no talent for strategy and lacks appreciation for the big picture. Forever in haste, he mistakes petty cleverness for tactics, and courts more and more disasters for his father, himself, and their kingdom.

Since money talks, few have felt persuaded to question Mohammed bin Salman’s most recent rashness. They even advance the notion that the Arab middle class will feel empowered by the purge of “corrupt” royals. The idea seems to be that Mohammed bin Salman will lead a new Saudi revolution. Archimedes said in his time to find a still point in the universe so he could move the earth standing there. What he meant was that nothing is stationary. A revolution that Mohammed bin Salman leads will eventually consume him. Revolutions are insatiable. It would appear like poetic justice that Mohammed bin Salman felt the need to clear his heedlessness with the one person most unsuited to statesmanship, namely the US president. Iran would be thrilled.