An unprecedented and dramatic development occurred in Saudi Arabia last weekend as the government ordered the arrest of 11 princes, including the multi-billionaire Alwaleed bin Talal, besides four serving Cabinet ministers and a large number of former ministers. Ostensibly, the arrests are on the grounds of corruption, although in a kingdom like Saudi Arabia the concept of the use of public funds for personal use by those in power isn’t the same as in a democracy.
Therefore, a plausible explanation is that the sensational move is intended to consolidate the position of 32-year old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who was made defence minister in 2015 and became Crown Prince earlier this year, elbowing out an uncle. This was signal enough that Prince Mohammed mattered more than anyone else and he soon became the fulcrum of all crucial policy matters — both security and economic affairs.
The “night of the long knives” has caught world attention due to Prince Alwaleed, who is one of the world’s richest men with stakes in major business corporations of the West who has willed his personal wealth of $32 billion to charity after his death. It can only be speculated whether the appropriation of this wealth is an object of the arrests. Before Donald Trump became US President, Prince Alwaleed, said to be a direct man, had ticked him off and received a rude reply in return. But the US leader appears well-disposed toward the Crown Prince, who also has modernising and moderate credentials. Political and social churning seems evident in the Muslim world’s richest country.