News from the Arab Press

Mysterious Changes In Saudi Arabia

By Asaf Zilberfarb | The Media Line

November 21, 2017

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Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, London, November 15

Recent developments in the Gulf surrounding the resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri shed light not only on Riyadh’s changing foreign policy objectives, but also on its shifting internal politics. Ever since he ascended to power in January of 2015, King Salman Bin Abdul Azziz has been preparing the ground for his son, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, to inherit the throne. This means that almost every major action taken within the Saudi domestic arena in recent months has been aimed at one thing only: ensuring the durability of bin Salman’s rule once he replaces his father. These events began with the removal of all potential opponents from power. First, Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Nayef, the original heir apparent, was relieved of all positions by royal decree. Next, all armed forces, including the National Guard, were subjugated to the Ministry of Defense. Finally, bin Salman was appointed to the position of defense minister, overseeing the kingdom’s security establishment. These changes were not merely political, as Saudi authorities have also been busy conducting a widespread crackdown on major businessmen accused of bribery and corruption. This campaign included the arrest of leading figures in the kingdom’s media industry and one cannot help but suspect that the House of Saud is attempting to consolidate control over the country’s news and television industries in order to restrict negative coverage of government actions through subtle intimidation. On the religious front, dozens of sheikhs and other prominent figures were arrested in an effort to suppress domestic criticism against the moves and limit the potential for an uprising against the Royal House. To quell the population’s growing suspicion and anger, groundbreaking reforms, including the elimination of the ban on female drivers, were suddenly passed. There is no doubt that the current Crown Prince has a clear vision for Saudi Arabia, one that seeks to transform it from an oil-dependent economy into a powerhouse of entrepreneurship and innovation. While his reforms have not been met without objection, bin Salman proved that he is not afraid of making unpopular changes to the structure of the Saudi economy, political system and society at large. So far, he has enjoyed the support of US President Donald Trump, as well as other less popular allies in the region such as Israel. Only time will tell whether he is successful in this mission or not. In the meantime, it seems as if the Saudi monarchy is moving away from being ruled by al family and towards becoming a country run by a single powerful prince with aspirations of the throne. – Ala al-Bayumi

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