One of the most intriguing news events over the past few days has taken place in Saudi Arabia. Today I have been taken in by the coverage not only from national papers such as The New York Times--which devoted more than two full pages to the events–but also from the international press which has been consumed with the weekend arrests. The fact is I love Saudi history and find the political stories from the Kingdom most enjoyable to sort through. Today was truly enjoyable!
Why the crown prince acted now — whether to eliminate future opposition or perhaps to crush some threat he saw brewing — was not immediately clear.
At 32 years old, he had little experience in government before his father, King Salman, 81, ascended to the throne in 2015, and the prince has demonstrated little patience for the previously staid pace of change in the kingdom.
Crown Prince Mohammed’s haste, however, may now come at a price, because the lack of transparency or due process surrounding the anticorruption crackdown is sure to unnerve the same private investors he hopes to attract — including through a planned stock offering of the huge state oil company, Aramco.
What took place this weekend will need time to sort out but the possible implications are clear.
Before the arrests on Saturday of his fellow royals and former ministers on corruption allegations, Prince Mohammed had stripped the religious police of their arrest powers and expanded the space for women in public life, including promising them the right to drive.
Dozens of hard-line clerics have been detained, while others were designated to speak publicly about respect for other religions, a topic once anathema to the kingdom’s religious apparatus.
If the changes take hold, they could mean a historic reordering of the Saudi state by diminishing the role of hard-line clerics in shaping policy. That shift could reverberate abroad by moderating the exportation of the kingdom’s uncompromising version of Islam, Wahhabism, which has been accused of fueling intolerance and terrorism.