News Analysis |
11 Saudi princes, ministers and former government officials were arrested and detained hours after King Salman ordered the formation of the anti-corruption committee under the command of the 32-year old crown prince, Muhammad bin Salman.
Three ministers were removed from their posts: Economy and Planning Minister Adel bin Mohammed Faqih, National Guard Minister Prince Miteb bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz and Naval Forces Commander Admiral Abdullah bin Sultan bin Mohammed Al-Sultan, said Al Arabiya TV, the government’s official broadcaster that air content approved by the Saudi government.
The Saudi Communication Ministry released a statement saying:”King Salman issued the anti-graft degree as part of an active reform agenda aimed at tackling a persistent problem that has hindered development efforts in the Kingdom in recent decades.”
The modern and reformist, Muhammad Bin Salman is leading the anticorruption committee that has the right to investigate, arrest, ban from travel, or freeze the assets of anyone it deems corrupt.The Ritz Carlton hotel in Riyadh, the de facto royal hotel, was evacuated on Saturday, while the airport for private planes was closed, raising speculations that rich businessmen will be stopped from fleeing the country.
After allowing women to drive, MBS has vowed to take the Kingdom towards a “moderate” form of Islam, primarily under the aegis of his ambitious Vision 2030 which aims to transform the Economy into one that can lure in investors while reducing dependence on oil.
The Communication Ministry’s press release added that the committee was needed “due to the propensity of some people for abuse, putting their personal interest above public interest, and stealing public funds” and will “trace and combat corruption at all levels.”
The Power Game
However, Saudi watchers say that there is a lot more than what meets the eye. They feel this has got all to do with the 32-year old crown prince, known as MBS. The meteoric rise of MBS up the ladder has seen Saudi Arabia undergo the once-unthinkable changes. After allowing women to drive, MBS has vowed to take the Kingdom towards a “moderate” form of Islam, primarily under the aegis of his ambitious Vision 2030 which aims to transform the Economy into one that can lure in investors while reducing dependence on oil.
Thus, it is believed that the anti-corruption drive is an important plank in the proper implementation of the vision. However, given the dynamics of Saudi Arabia in particular and the Arab World in general, the power politics side of this step cannot be overlooked.The wholesale changes being introduced by MBS are more than likely to bring him in conflict with the clerics.
Ever since MBS’ alleviation to the post of crown prince, he has accumulated power and now is in defacto control of the country’s military, foreign, social and economic policies.
In a bid to thwart potential threats for Muhammad bin Salman, King Salman removed and incarcerated the interior minister, Muhammad Bin Nayef.
Saturday’s arrests came a few hours after the king supplanted the minister in charge of the Saudi national guard, Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah, the person in charge of the last of the three Saudi armed forces not yet considered to be under the direct control of the crown prince.
In a bid to thwart potential threats for Muhammad bin Salman, King Salman removed and incarcerated the interior minister, Muhammad Bin Nayef. This brought troops of the interior ministry under the control of Muhammad Bin Salman.
Analysts assert that despite being different, Muhammad Bin Salman will not compromise on strengthening his power and guarding against prospective rivals.
GVS approached renowned Russian geopolitical analyst, Andrew Korybko to get his thoughts on the important developments taking place inside the Kingdom. Korybko who has written and spoken on Saudi Arabia for a host of outlets said:”Mohammed Bin Salman is purging his country’s pro-American “deep state” in order to preemptively defend against a looming coup attempt inspired by his socio-religious and economic reforms.”
Korybko alluded to the fact that Muhammad’s policies have not gone down well in the corridors of power. He said:”The Crown Prince upset many royals over the past six months by defying the succession process, clinching $135 billion in deals from China, commencing the fast-moving rapprochement with Russia, and — his worst sin in the eyes of his enemies and especially their US patrons — seriously considering selling oil in yuan to add strength to the speculative petroyuan.”
Muhammad’s cozying up to China and Russia is being seen as a significant change in Riyadh’s approach to world politics, one that is not limited by a zero-sum mentality.
“Ironically, while Iran has its own self-interested national security imperatives for this, Tehran is interestingly — though unwittingly — superficially on the same side as Washington, just as it was during the early months of the so-called “Arab Spring” theater-wide Color Revolutions in agitating for Gaddafi’s downfall.”
Korybko was quick to point out the impending threats to the 32-year old.He said:”Despite dealing with his enemies, at least for now, Mohammed Bin Salman must also thwart Daesh threats to his Kingdom, and Iran is sure to try and unsettle its rival during this very vulnerable time, such as what was just seen through he Houthis missile attack against Riyadh and potentially in another Shiite uprising in the Eastern Province and Bahrain.”
However, Korybko also spelled trouble for Iran. He enunciated:”Ironically, while Iran has its own self-interested national security imperatives for this, Tehran is interestingly — though unwittingly — superficially on the same side as Washington, just as it was during the early months of the so-called “Arab Spring” theater-wide Color Revolutions in agitating for Gaddafi’s downfall.”
Korybko added that “Just like then, however, Iran might soon find itself regretting its course of action if its enemy’s replacement is, as expected, much worse than the incumbent.”
The kingdom is certainly in for some interesting times ahead. The question is whether the brash young crown prince will be able to transform the country despite the external and internal challenges he is grappling with.