18 November 2017
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  • » 11/06/2017, 11.41

    SAUDI ARABIA

    Riyadh, bin Salman consolidates power by arresting dozens of princes and ministers



    The heir to the throne has led one of the most impressive purges against the Kingdom’s political and entrepreneurial class. Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the richest person in the Arab world, also targeted. Charges of corruption . The long Saudi hand behind the resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri.

    Riyadh (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The heir to the Saudi ruler Mohammed bin Salman, number two in the country, has consolidated his leadership over the weekend leading the most impressive purge of the Saudi political and business class ever. The new Anti-Corruption Commission, set up by the future monarch in person, ordered the arrest of 11 princes of the royal family, four serving ministers, and dozens of other former ministers.

    At the same time King Salman imposed the replacement of the head of the National Guard, Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, and Military Navy Admiral Abdullah bin Sultan bin Mohammed Al-Sultan. At present there are no official explanations for the decision, which seems to fall within the current leadership’s tightening of its hold on power.

    The arrests – which have  shocked the Saudi society, little used to sudden changes - were ordered by the powerful and infant anti-corruption commission set up by the 32-year-old hereditary prince. It has the authority to issue arrest warrants and impose travel restrictions and expulsion orders.

    The arrested include Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a Saudi billionaire considered to be the richest person in the Arab world with a personal wealth of $ 18.7 billion. The 62-year-old media tycoon is one of the country's few personalities to have voted in June at the Covenant Council meeting against the promotion of Mohammed bin Salman as prime minister.

    He has shares in Citigroup, Twitter, Lyft and Time Warner through his Kingdom Holding company. In 2015, in the US election campaign, he had defined the current president - and then Republican candidate - Donald Trump a "disgrace".

    Among those arrested are also former Finance Minister Ibrahim al-Assaf, Economy Minister Adel Fakieh, former governor of Riyadh Turki bin Abdullah and Bakr bin Laden, president of Binladin Group, a giant of Saudi construction.

    According to Saudi TV Al-Arabiya reports, there were a series of investigations into Jeddah floods in 2009 and the MERS epidemic that struck Saudi Arabia in 2012. However, analysts and experts agree these measures are of a "political" nature and the hereditary prince is actually attempting to "consolidate his leadership".

    Mohammed bin Salman is considered to be the power behind the throne – held at a nominal level by his father, the 81-year-old king Salman.  He is operating the levers of power, from defense to economy. The recent nuclear energy breakthrough is just one of the many reforms initiated by the hereditary prince in the context of the "Vision 2030" program: Reforms include allowing women to drive and go to stadiums, as well as promoting an open and moderate Islam.

    He is very popular among young Saudis, but older and more conservative generations consider that he is moving too fast. In foreign policy, he is chiefly responsible for the expensive and ruinous war in Yemen, which has been dragging on for more than two years without any significant militaristic results. Added to this is the boycott against the nearby Qatar and the escalation of tension with the region's historic rival, Shiite Iran. By contrast, supporters are applauding the country's modernization promoted by a young leader, after decades of elderly leaders.

    Finally, Riyadh is also reportedly behind the resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri (Sunni), guilty of having completed a government deal with Hezbollah, the Shiite movement near Tehran. In justifying his decision to resign, Hariri spoke of a "very similar atmosphere to that which reigned shortly before the assassination of Prime Minister Martyr Rafik Hariri," Saad's father.

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