Under the initiative of Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, a dozen Saudi princes have been detained on corruption charges by new anti-corruption committee. Along with it a several senior ministers have been sacked. This incident happens around the same time when Riyadh’s King Khaled International Airport has been attacked by Yemen’s Houthi rebels with ballistic missiles. Saudi Arabia, ever since Bin Salman became minister of defense, is locked in bloody war with Iran backed Houthi rebels. The move has to be accounted as a misadventure as contrary to the predictions of Bin Salman that Houthis can be defeated in two months, it is more than two years and Iran backed rebels are still alive and kicking. So much so, that they have capability and audacity to fire ballistic missiles to the capital city of Saudi Arabia.
However, the move to detain the princes and ministers probably is unrelated to the Houthi attacks. The motive behind these detentions has been explained by King Salman in an official statement, saying that the committee shall “identify offences, crimes and persons and entities involved in cases of public corruption”. The committee has the power to issue arrest warrants, travel bans, disclose and freeze accounts and portfolios, track funds and assets, and “prevent their remittance or transfer by persons and entities, whatever they might be”, according to the statement.
The sacked ministers include the son of the former Saudi King, Abdullah, Prince Mitaab bin Abdullah who was also the head of National Guard. Another prominent personality on the detention list is Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who is one of the richest men on earth and is popularly called Saudi Warren Buffet.
It is quite clear that Crown Prince, Bin Salman is not in a mood to tolerate any competition to his supremacy and authority in Riyadh’s corridor of power. He has the blessings of not only his father, King Salman, but also President Donald Trump. In return, Saudi Arabia has agreed to become the biggest arms client of United States. The fallout between Prince Alwaleed bin Talal and Trump in 2016 may also have a role leading to his arrest. This kind of political shake up within the royalty is something unheard of in the recent Saudi history. The sweeping powers of Bin Salman and the reformist stand he has taken are the alibis for such political vendetta in the garb of reforms. The state controlled Saudi media stands solidly behind Bin Salman defending policies and approaches. These are all part of Vision 2030 that has promised to take the Kingdom away from the dependency on oil and as a moderate Islamic state. It would be interesting to see how these moves impacts the common Saudis. Having said that the opinions of the common men in Saudi Arabia would never be known on the account of the level secrecy they maintain in the Kingdom.