THE HINDU EDITORIAL- 10th November 2017

a) Zimbabwean stakes

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s decision to fire his Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, citing disloyalty and deceitfulness, has triggered another political crisis ahead of next year’s presidential election. Mr. Mnangagwa was Mr. Mugabe’s right-hand man in the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) and was widely tipped to be his successor. But there were murmurs in recent months that Mr. Mnangagwa and Grace Mugabe, the President’s second wife, were involved in a shadow fight for influence. The Zanu-PF has announced that the 93-year-old Mr. Mugabe will be its presidential candidate for next year’s election. But given his age and health, in the event of a victory the Vice-President’s post would set up the incumbent for the big succession. By firing Mr. Mnangagwa, Mr. Mugabe appears to have turned the tide in favour of his wife. Ruling party factions have started promoting Ms. Mugabe’s name as the next Vice-President and the party is expected to make an announcement next month. The Zanu-PF has also launched a crackdown on those who were linked to Mr. Mnangagwa, who has fled the country. Mr. Mnangagwa’s exit could hurt the President politically. He has been a heavyweight in the faction-ridden Zanu-PF for a long time. He is being alienated at a time when a seven-party Opposition alliance was planning a joint candidate against Mr. Mugabe to capitalise on the widespread public discord over economic miseries. Mr. Mugabe, a former Marxist guerrilla who came to power in 1980 riding on strong anti-colonial sentiments and promises to reshape the country’s future, has instead overseen a rapid deterioration of the economy in recent years. Following unbridled hyperinflation, Zimbabwe had to scrap its dollar altogether in 2015 and adopt a multi-currency system, which has done little to ease cash shortages. The country’s infrastructure is crumbling and government services are a shambles. But public resentment and opposition unity may not necessarily lead to Mr. Mugabe’s electoral defeat. In the 37 years of his rule he has shown that he enjoys considerable support, particularly among the black working population, and is ready to go to any extreme to retain his grip on power. Barring a brief period when he was forced to reach a power-sharing agreement with the opposition, Mr. Mugabe has largely had his own way in governance. The stakes are high in the coming election, with Ms. Mugabe having publicly expressed her desire to succeed the President and the Zanu-PF facing a split after Mr. Mnangagwa’s expulsion. All this points to more chaos, at a time when the government’s focus should be on addressing the economic challenges. For his part, Mr. Mugabe should allow a free and fair election to take place next year and ensure a smooth transition of power, both within the party and in the government. It’s time he finally acted like a statesman.

b) Night of the long knives in Riyadh

When the King of Saudi Arabia, Salman bin Abdulaziz, removed Mohammed bin Nayef as Crown Prince in June and appointed his favourite son, Mohammed bin Salman, as the next in the line to the throne, many had warned of brewing instability in the House of Saud. Prince Mohammed bin Nayef has hardly been seen since then, with some reports claiming he’s under house arrest. The early morning developments on Sunday when 11 princes and senior government ministers and officials were arrested on orders from Crown Prince Mohammed suggest those warnings were realistic. Two of the princes arrested were Mutaib bin Abdullah, son of the late King Abdullah, King Salman’s half-brother, and Alwaleed bin Talal, one of the richest men in the Arab world. The official explanation is that the arrests were carried out as part of an anti-corruption campaign spearheaded by MBS, as Crown Prince Mohammed is widely known. Some others see MBS as “a risk-taking reformer” who is challenging both the establishment royals as well as the Wahhabi-Salafi clergy of the Kingdom to reshape the country. It is too early to reach any such conclusions. Beyond the reform and anti-corruption banners which the pro-MBS factions are propagating, what is actually unfolding in the House of Saud is an unprecedented power struggle in which the 32-year-old Crown Prince is trying to amass as much power as possible in his hands before his 81-year-old father leaves the throne. The anti-corruption campaign looks more like another weapon for MBS to consolidate his position. The committee chaired by him that ordered the arrests was announced only hours before the purge was carried out. The reform promises he’s made will be tested in the days to come. The Vision 2030 plan, which MBS unveiled earlier to reduce Saudi dependence on oil, has been a non-starter. Even in his promise to allow women to drive, he has simply given in to long-standing demands from within and abroad, and hasn’t signalled if he would go beyond it to usher in other reforms that would provide more freedoms.

Pattern in the purges

On the other hand, there’s a pattern in the purges. When King Salman ascended the throne in January 2015, initially he was careful not to disrupt the balance within the palace even as he made MBS, his favourite son, the Defence Minister. He first appointed Muqrin bin Abdulaziz, the Deputy Crown Prince and a loyalist of King Abdullah, as the Crown Prince and allowed Mutaib bin Abdullah, King Abdullah’s son, to continue as the chief of the National Guard. But in a few months, King Salman replaced Prince Muqrin with Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, and thereby ensured that the leadership of the three branches of the Saudi armed forces was distributed among the three powerful branches of the family — MBS to control the regular army as the Defence Minister, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef to oversee the interior ministry and intelligence, and Prince Mutaib to head the National Guards, whose job is to protect the royal family. MBS first targeted Prince Nayef in the June surprise. He got the King to remove his cousin as the Crown Prince. By removing Prince Nayef, he has also brought the Interior Ministry and Saudi intelligence under his control. The arrest of Prince Mutaib on Sunday fits into the pattern. Prince Mutaib was removed as the National Guard Minister hours before his arrest. Now, MBS is practically in charge of all branches of the Saudi armed forces. He already controlled the Royal Court and had taken over economic policies. The latest arrests also allow him to tighten his grip over the country’s media. Saleh Abdullah Kamel, Waleed al-Ibrahim and Prince Alwaleed, the respective owners of Arab Media Company, Middle East Broadcasting Corporation and Rotana media groups, are now behind bars. Of these, Prince Alwaleed has formidable financial resources and enjoys warm ties with several Western governments and corporations. He was also reportedly close to deposed Crown Prince Nayef. The way MBS has consolidated power in less than three years in a country that’s run on patronage, tribal loyalty, tradition and royal consensus is unprecedented. No Crown Prince in years, if not decades, has enjoyed the kind of authority he now wields. But the repeated purges indicate not only MBS’s growing clout but also turbulent politics within the palace. The kind of instability Saudi Arabia sees now where even a powerful former Crown Prince is not seen in public for months and the chief of the National Guards is put under arrest is uncharted terrain. In his rise, MBS has already upset tradition, broken consensus and turned against the sheikhs. Dealing with the crisis his actions have generated will be his first post-purge challenge. As of now, all the arrested princes are housed in Riyadh’s Ritz Carlton (in picture). Is MBS going to prosecute them, transfer them to a prison, force them to flee or buy their loyalty in return for their freedom? He has already confiscated some of their assets. Former Crown Prince Muqrin’s son died in a helicopter crash near the Saudi-Yemeni border while reportedly fleeing the country. Will the wounded princes and the sheikhs who back them accept MBS as their future King?

New theatre of conflict

Answers to these questions will seal Saudi Arabia’s future. But the regional repercussions of the crisis at home are already visible. It need not be a coincidence that hours before the purge was carried out, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who was leading a unity government in which Hezbollah, the Shia party, was a part, announced his resignation while in Riyadh, blaming Iranian influence in Lebanese politics. It’s quite an unusual way for a country’s Prime Minister to announce his resignation from another country, blaming it on a third nation. But Saudi Arabia wasted no time in stepping up its anti-Iran, anti-Hezbollah rhetoric citing Mr. Hariri’s resignation, while Lebanon sank into another spell of uncertainty. This could be MBS’s plan to open another front against Tehran, which fits into his disruptive, anti-Iran regional approach. It’s evident from his policy adventures over the past three years — be it the bombing of Yemen, the proxy war in Syria, the blockade of Qatar or the formation of a Sunni coalition — that he’s using the anti-Iran plank for support at home and dominance in the region. Unsurprisingly, he is playing the same card again when palace politics boils over. However, MBS’s track record is dismal. At best, he is a disruptive force, but a bad manager of the outcomes. Three years since it started bombing Yemen, Saudi Arabia is now groping in the dark for a solution. In Syria, President Bashar al-Assad won the civil war. Qatar refused to toe the Saudi line despite the pressure, threats and blockade. But failures clearly do not stop him from moving on to Lebanon. And if the instability at home worsens, which is the likely scenario, Riyadh will turn up the heat on Hezbollah, drawing Iran closer into a larger conflict.


1) Deceitfulness

Meaning: Guilty of or involving deceit; deceiving or misleading others.

Example: “a deceitful politician”

Synonyms: Dishonest, Untruthful

Antonyms: Honest, True

2) Triggered

Meaning: Cause (an event or situation) to happen or exist.

Example: “an allergy can be triggered by stress or overwork”

Synonyms: Precipitate, Prompt

3) Tipped

Meaning: Be or cause to be in a sloping position with one end or side higher than the other.

Example: “I tipped my seat back, preparing myself for sleep”

Synonyms: Incline, Slope

Antonyms: Level, Right

4) Murmurs

Meaning: Say something in a low or indistinct voice.

Example: “Nina murmured an excuse and hurried away”

Synonyms: Complain, Grumble

5) Incumbent

Meaning: Necessary for (someone) as a duty or responsibility.

Example: “the government realized that it was incumbent on them to act”

Synonyms: Obligatory, Mandatory

Antonyms: Optional

6) Crackdown

Meaning: A series of severe measures to restrict undesirable or illegal people or behaviour.

Example: “a crackdown on car crime”

Synonyms: Clampdown, Elimination

7) Alienated

Meaning: Make (someone) feel isolated or estranged.

Example: “an urban environment which would alienate its inhabitants”

Synonyms: Estrange, Isolate

Antonyms: Unite

8) Unbridled

Meaning: Uncontrolled; unconstrained.

Example: “a moment of unbridled ambition”

Synonyms: Rampant, Uncontrolled

Antonyms: Restrained

9) Crumbling

Meaning: break or fall apart into small fragments, especially as part of a process of deterioration.

Example: “the plaster started to crumble”

Synonyms: Disintegrate, Fragment

Antonyms: Integrate

10) Shambles

Meaning: A state of total disorder.

Example: “my career was in a shambles”

Synonyms: Chaos, Muddle

11) Resentment

Meaning: Bitter indignation at having been treated unfairly.

Example: “his resentment at being demoted”

Synonyms: Bitterness, Indignation

Antonyms: Contentment, Happiness

12) Barring

Meaning: Except for; if not for.

Example: “barring accidents, we should win”

Synonyms: Except, Excluding

Antonyms: Include

13) Brewing

Meaning: (of an unwelcome event or situation) begin to develop.

Example: “there was more trouble brewing as the miners went on strike”

Synonyms: Develop, Impend

14) Spearheaded

Meaning: Lead (an attack or movement).

Example: “he’s spearheading a campaign to reduce the number of accidents at work”

Synonyms: Lead, Front

15) Clergy

Meaning: The body of all people ordained for religious duties, especially in the Christian Church.

Example: “all marriages were to be solemnized by the clergy”

Synonyms: Priest, Bishop

Antonyms: Laity

16) Amass

Meaning: Gather together or accumulate (a large amount or number of material or things) over a period of time.

Example: “he amassed a fortune estimated at close to a million pounds”

Synonyms: Gather, Collect

Antonyms: Dissipate

17) Consolidate

Meaning: Strengthen (one’s position or power).

Example: “the company consolidated its position in the international market”

Synonyms: Strengthen, Tighten

18) Ascended

Meaning: Go up or climb.

Example: “she ascended the stairs”

Synonyms: Arise, Conquer

Antonyms: Descend

19) Throne

Meaning: Used to signify sovereign power.

Example: “the heir to the throne”

Synonyms: Rule, Dominion

20) Disrupt

Meaning: Drastically alter or destroy the structure of; interrupt (an event, activity, or process) by causing a disturbance or problem.

Example: “alcohol can disrupt the chromosomes of an unfertilized egg”

Synonyms: Distort, Damage

Antonyms: Organize, Arrange

21) Formidable

Meaning: Inspiring fear or respect through being impressively large, powerful, intense, or capable.

Example: “a formidable opponent”

Synonyms: Daunting, Alarming

Antonyms: Easy, Comforting

22) Deposed

Meaning: Remove from office suddenly and forcefully.

Example: “he had been deposed by a military coup”

Synonyms: Overthrow, Supplant

23) Patronage

Meaning: The support given by a patron.

Example: “the arts could no longer depend on private patronage”

Synonyms: Sponsorship, Funding

24) Unprecedented

Meaning: Never done or known before.

Example: “the government took the unprecedented step of releasing confidential correspondence”

Synonyms: Unmatched, Unrivalled

Antonyms: Normal, Common

25) Purges

Meaning: Remove (a group of people considered undesirable) from an organization or place in an abrupt or violent way.

Example: “he purged all but 26 of the central committee members”

Synonyms: Remove, Depose

26) Turbulent

Meaning:  Characterized by conflict, disorder, or confusion; not stable or calm.

Example: “the country’s turbulent history”

Synonyms: Unstable, Unsettled

Antonyms: Peaceful

27) Uncharted

Meaning: (of an area of land or sea) not mapped or surveyed.

Example: “the plane landed on a previously uncharted islet”

Synonyms: Unexplored, Unfamiliar

28) Consensus

Meaning: A general agreement.

Example: “there is a growing consensus that the current regime has failed”

Synonyms: Agreement, Concord

Antonyms: Disagreement

29) Prosecute

Meaning: Institute legal proceedings in respect of (a claim or offence).

Example: “the state’s attorney’s office seemed to decide that this was a case worth prosecuting”

Synonyms: Accuse, Indict

Antonyms: Defend, Pardon

30) Confiscated

Meaning: Take or seize (someone’s property) with authority.

Example: “the guards confiscated his camera”

Synonyms: Impound, Seize

Antonyms: Return

31) Fleeing

Meaning: Run away from a place or situation of danger.

Example: “to escape the fighting, his family fled from their village”

Synonyms: Run, Escape

32) Repercussions

Meaning: An unintended consequence of an event or action, especially an unwelcome one.

Example: “the move would have grave repercussions for the entire region”

Synonyms: Consequence, Result

33) Stepping Up

Meaning: An increase in the amount, speed, or intensity of something.

Example: “the recent stepping-up of the campaign”

Synonyms: Increase

34) Proxy

Meaning: The authority to represent someone else, especially in voting.

Example: “Britons overseas may register to vote by proxy”

Synonyms: Representative, Substitute

35) Bombing

Meaning: Attack (a place or object) with a bomb or bombs.

Example: “they bombed the city at dawn”

Synonyms: Explode, Blast

36) Groping

Meaning: Search blindly or uncertainly by feeling with the hands.

Example: “she groped for her spectacles”

Synonyms: Fumble, Scrabble

37) Toe

Meaning: To do what you are ordered or expected to do

Example: Ministers who wouldn’t toe the party line were swiftly got rid of.

38) Blockade

Meaning: Seal off (a place) to prevent goods or people from entering or leaving.

Example: “the authorities blockaded roads in and out of the capital”

Synonyms: Barricade, Seal

39) Scenario

Meaning: A postulated sequence or development of events.

Example: “a possible scenario is that he was attacked after opening the front door”

Synonyms: Situation, Plan

40) Conflict

Meaning: A prolonged armed struggle.

Example: “regional conflicts”

Synonyms: Action, Battle

Antonyms: Peace