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Billionaire prince among dozens arrested in Saudi sweep


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Nov. 5 2017


RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Saudi Arabia has arrested dozens of princes, senior military officers, businessmen and top officials, including a well-known royal billionaire with extensive holdings in Western companies, as part of a sweeping purported anti-corruption probe that further cements control in the hands of its young crown prince.

A high-level employee at Prince Alwaleed bin Talal’s Kingdom Holding Co. told The Associated Press that the royal— who is one of the world’s richest men— was among those detained overnight Saturday. The company’s stock was down nearly 9 percent in trading Sunday on the Saudi stock exchange.

Reports suggested those detained were being held at the Ritz Carlton in Riyadh, which only days earlier hosted a major investment conference with global business titans from the U.S., Japan and other countries. A Saudi official told The Associated Press that other five-star hotels across the capital were also being used to hold some of those arrested.

The surprise arrests, which also reportedly include two of the late King Abdullah’s sons, were hailed by pro-government media outlets as the greatest sign yet that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is keeping his promise to reform the country, long been plagued by allegations of corruption at the highest levels of government.



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What’s Going on in Saudi Arabia?

Steven Hayward

Nov. 6 2017


From all appearances on the surface, there is a major purge under way in Saudi Arabia this weekend. The new crown prince, 32-year-old Mohammed bin Salman, has arrested several rival family members and numerous other high officials and put them under house arrest in the Ritz Carlton hotel in Riyadh. Most of the arrestees were supporters of the late King Abdullah.

Several news outlets including CNN report that a missile fired from Yemen at Riyadh was intercepted by a Patriot anti-missile battery, but a source of mine in Saudi Arabia says this report may be fake news from the palace, intended as cover for bin Salman’s moves.

There’s a strong anti-Iran angle to this story. First, Lebanon’s prime minister Saad Hariri announced his resignation while on a visit to Riyadh, which is very strange in itself, but Hariri blasted Hezbollah and Iranian domination of Lebanon in his speech. The Puffington Host reports:




Keep your eyes on this. I rather hope that the Iranian “adviser” is correct about the reasons (and people) behind these developments, and that this move is part of a larger strategy to increase the region’s resistance to Iran

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Saudi Arabia's future: The crown prince makes a demographic bet

Herb London

Nov. 7 2017




Dozens of hard-line clerics have spoken out and been detained. Other have been designated to speak publicly about respect for other religions, a topic once anathema to the kingdom’s religious superstructure.

Most clerics oppose bin Salman, if recent reports can be relied on, but preserving the alliance with the monarchy is what matters most. They have much more to lose by protesting than biting their tongues.

In pushing his reforms the crown prince is making a demographic bet. The kingdom’s large population of young people cares more about entertainment and economic opportunities than religious dogma. Serious measures to stamp out the rigidities of Islamic fundamentalism that permeate the nation could have salutary effects on trade and financial transactions.

* Yet one cannot overlook events in 1979, when extremists accused the royal family of being insufficiently Islamic and seized the Grand Mosque in Mecca. That event shocked the Muslim world and compromised the position of the royal family.

That explains why tension resides over the Riyadh sky. It is a tension borne of rapid change and coping with uncertainty. However, the crown prince is resourceful and clever. Whether he has the stamina to maintain his revolutionary stance remains to be seen.




* NPR:1979: Remembering 'The Siege Of Mecca'

August 20, 20096:00 AM ET

Heard on Morning Edition

Yaroslav Trofimov, a reporter with The Wall Street Journal, talks about the 1979 siege of the Grand Mosque at Mecca in Saudi Arabia. It is the holiest site in Islam, and gunmen held it for two weeks. It was one of the events that gave rise to al-Qaida, and Yaroslav wrote about it in his book The Siege of Mecca.


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Saudi Arabia royal purge: Why it matters so much to the world beyond its borders

From the UK and US to Yemen, Qatar, Turkey and Lebanon – the fallout from the Crown Prince’s ‘corruption’ sweep could be felt across many nations

Kim Sengupta Diplomatic Editor

Tuesday 7 November 2017



Mohammed Bin Salman al Saud wants to consolidate authority in Saudi Arabia in his hands and, at the same time, be the kingmaker in other lands. It is an extraordinarily high-risk strategy, and one even the seemingly uber-confident young Prince would not have embarked on without a powerful outside sponsor.

He appears to have found one. Donald Trump expressed support for the purge in a phone call to King Salman. The US President’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, paid a secretive visit to Riyadh a few days ago. But this support is likely to have come at a price. Mr Trump has tweeted that he wants the $2 trillion float of Saudi oil giant Aramco to take place in New York. The President added he had raised the matter in the call to the Saudi king. The UK would be the loser in the byproduct of this. London was hoping to be the place for the flotation, bringing with it a massive post-Brexit boost. The journeys of supplication by Theresa May and other ministers to Riyadh to achieve this may have been in vain.


Mr Abbas, the Palestinian leader, was the next to be asked to go to Riyadh. The Saudis have been trying to wean Hamas away from their Iranian backers, but they still remain suspicious of the Islamist movement. Mr Abbas, with Saudi encouragement, recently took on Hamas by imposing sanctions on Gaza. There has now been a highly publicised “reconciliation” between the two sides. But Prince Mohammed, who has already met a Hamas delegation recently, will want to ensure that the status quo is maintained to Saudi satisfaction.



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The Promising Crisis in Saudi Arabia

Eli Lake

November 8, 2017


We've seen this before. A rising leader arrests his political rivals on corruption charges to clear his path to power. Usually this kind of thing doesn't work out well for U.S. interests. See Vladimir Putin or Xi Jinping.

But in Saudi Arabia, there is reason for cautious optimism after the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, purged many of his rivals over the weekend, including  current and former ministers, Saudi royals and other assorted billionaires.

In a kingdom traditionally ruled by compromise and consensus, this looks like a risky play. But too often that compromise and consensus has produced a Janus-faced Saudi policy. Modernizers are forced to appease reactionaries. Past reforms have turned out to be half measures. 

This is one reason why President Donald Trump has praised the 32-year old prince's power play. In two tweets on Monday, Trump said he had "great confidence" in the recent crackdown, adding that some of the arrested royals had been "milking their country for years."

It would be easy to chalk this up to Trump's own instincts to sidle up to authoritarians. There is more to it though. 






Unlike 90% of what passes for News today (most of which will be forgotten in 2 weeks time) this may actually be (to quote Plugs Biden) A Big F***ing Deal.

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Saudi Arabia Tells Its Citizens to Leave Lebanon as Soon as Possible


DUBAI (Reuters) — Saudi Arabia has advised its citizens against traveling to Lebanon and asked those in the country to leave as soon as possible, the kingdom's official news agency (SPA) quoted an official source in the Foreign Ministry as saying.
"Due to the circumstances in the Lebanese Republic, the kingdom asks its citizens who are visiting or residing" there to leave as soon as possible, the source quoted by the news agency said, adding that Saudis were advised not to travel to Lebanon from any country.
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri resigned on Saturday while in Saudi Arabia, accusing Iran and the Lebanese Shi'ite group Hezbollah of sowing strife in Arab states and saying he feared assassination.
Two top Lebanese government officials accused Riyadh of holding Hariri a captive. A third told Reuters that the Saudi authorities ordered Hariri to resign and put him under house arrest.
Saudi Arabia and members of Hariri's Future Movement have denied reports that he is under house arrest.:snip:

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