Saudi Arabia detained some its powerful citizens and rivals to Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman under cover of a corruption inquiry Saturday.
The arrests are the latest in a series of power plays by Bin Salman to consolidate power in the Kingdom. Bin Salman was recently elevated to the role of Crown Prince at the age of 32 by his father, bypassing the traditional Saudi line of succession. He has vowed to take Saudi Arabia in a more modern direction, pledging a return to a more moderate view of Islam and reportedly spearheading efforts to allow women to drive. Many of these initiatives have been opposed by Saudi Arabia’s older ruling class.
“Some of the most powerful figures in Saudi Arabia were detained,” U.S. based intelligence advisory firm The Soufan Center noted in its daily intelligence brief Monday. These figures included ultra-rich Saudi investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, son the late Saudi King and head of the Royal guard Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah, and Osama Bin-Laden’s oldest brother. Bin-Laden’s brother is a well known construction mogul in the country.
ABC News also reported that the arrest included “Alwalid al-Ibrahim, a Saudi businessman with ties to the royal family who runs the Arabic satellite group MBC; Amr al-Dabbagh, the former head of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority; Ibrahim Assaf, a former finance minister.”
“In historic terms, what we’ve seen in the last few months is nothing short of revolutionary,” Saudi Arabia expert Robert Lacey told CNN of the internal machinations. The Soufan Center similarly noted that “Crown Prince Prince Mohammad bin Salman has succeeded in controlling all three Saudi security services, while cowing both conservative and reform-minded clerics — an unprecedented consolidation of power in the country’s history.”
H.A. Hellyer of the Atlantic Council noted to NPR Sunday “the message that it definitely sends across Saudi society is that the crown prince has a particular vision in mind for how – for where he wants his country to go. He’s in the driver’s seat. And everybody better get on with bending the knee.”
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