RTIwala Trending: In one breathtaking stroke, the strongest of strongest men of Saudi Arabia were detained by the Saudi authorities. They seemed untouchable. They had power in their hands beyond comparison. The head of a huge construction conglomerate. A prince who led Saudi Arabia’s elite national guard, a billionaire investor. All of them were detained in a purge. Some of the most powerful names in the country, including members of the Saudi royal family, cabinet ministers, titans of media and industry, and former officials were swept up. The detainees included Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a wealthy investor who owns major stakes in such companies as Twitter and Citigroup.
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Saudi officials transmit the arrests as the first shot in a battle against the country’s notorious and deeply rooted corruption. This is seen as a major step by the country’s young and ambitious crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, to refresh the stagnating Saudi state. For others, the detentions seem more like the continuation of a process that had been accelerating over the past two years. The ruthless consolidation of power by the crown prince before his father, King Salman, dies or abdicates the throne is one such
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“Mohammed bin Salman wants to destroy the game of checks and balances that had characterized Saudi Arabia over the past few decades,” said Stéphane Lacroix, a professor of political science at Sciences Po in Paris and the author of “Awakening Islam: The Politics of Religious Dissent in Contemporary Saudi Arabia.” The detentions come at a time of political, social and economic cataclysm in Saudi Arabia. There is an absolute monarchy form of government. Not to forget, that has become one of the Trump administration’s closest Middle East allies.
Saudia Arabia and it’s New Policy
Saudi leaders have embarked on an extensively publicized force to modernize the ultraconservative kingdom. There have been attempts to relax social restrictions and liberalize the oil-dependent economy. Last week in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, a lavish conference was organized. It was intended to encourage international investment as well as planned futuristic megaprojects.
Saudi Arabia has also adopted an increasingly muscular and confrontational posture in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia has focused on combating the influence of Iran, the kingdom’s archrival. Lebanon’s Prime Minister announced his resignation while in Saudi Arabia. It seems to appear as an attempt by the Saudi leadership to confront Iranian influence in Lebanon.
The detentions seemed to be a part of an intensifying drive to centralize power under the crown prince. The effort has included sidelining potential challengers from rival branches of the royal family. The detained included Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, head of the elite Saudi National Guard and a favored son of King Abdullah. Miteb “was important because he was the only prince who remained inside the government who could potentially oppose MBS.” The reasons for Alwaleed’s arrest were not immediately clear. The prince is the founder of the business conglomerate Kingdom Holding. He is also one of the world’s most prominent investors and had been supportive, of the Saudi leadership, at least in public. His detention, along with a number of other business tycoons, suggested that the Saudi leadership sent a strong message.
A royal decree, on the website of the Saudi state news agency, said the crown prince would lead a new committee on corruption. The committee has been granted broad powers to root out public corruption. It also includes the ability to issue arrest warrants, imposes travel bans and freezes bank accounts.