Goal of weekend arrests in Saudi Arabia is getting clearer

Flag of Saudi Arabia. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

The purpose of dozens of arrests on Saturday in Saudi Arabia is becoming clearer. It was not a coup attempt and not a counter-coup. Picture now emerging is of a purge, removing opposition.

For more background, check out post from Saturday night.

11/5/17 – Associated Press – Billionaire prince among dozens arrested in Saudi sweep – Article categorizes the arrests as a power consolidation, removing dissenting voices.

Article says Saudi Arabia was, up until this point, ruled by consensus with the king having final authority on decisions.

Article also says unnamed analysts have explained that the senior level princes were untouchable up until now, meaning they didn’t worry about having to follow the law.

If that is the case, it is extremely likely that every one of them has left behind plenty of proof that they were breaking whatever laws they were ignoring. If eeeeeveryone was spiriting money out of the country for a rainy day, then eeeeeveryone has created a massive electronic trail.

11/4/17 – Forbes – Saudi Billionaire Prince Alwaleed reportedly One Of At Least a Dozen Arrested For Corruption – I made a mistake in my earlier post – the arrest orders came from the anti-corruption committee. Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman (referred to as MBS) was appointed head of that committee, on Saturday I think. So it was not directly the king who issued the arrest orders, but MBS.

Forbes estimates Prince Alwaleed bin Talal’s net worth at $18.7B. Another arrested prince has net worth of $2.2B, according to the Forbes calculations.

11/5/17 – Wall Street Journal – Saudi Prince Mansour, Officials Killed in Helicopter Crash – A Saudi helicopter went down about 70 miles from the Saudi-Yemen border, killing eight people including a prince who is governor of the province. This prince was also son of the deposed former Crown Prince.

This will put into overdrive those who are conspiracy minded.

Separately, the tally of those arrested over the weekend in the purge, counter-coup, or whatever it was, now stands at around 60.

11/5/17 – Wall Street Journal – Broad Crackdown Reins In Saudi Arabia’s Elite – Picture is starting to clear up, maybe a bit, possibly.

This article also put the number of people arrested at around 60.

This and other articles explain the brand new anti-corruption agency was formed on Saturday with MBS as the head of the agency. The arrests started on Saturday. How can any government entity move that fast? This article explains the investigations have been underway for two years.

The new agency can issue warrants, restrict travel, and even seize funds, according to the article. I’ll guess they have authority to prosecute trials.

Without mention of names or amounts, the article says the new agency has already frozen some bank accounts.

Those arrested are being held at the Riyadh Ritz Carlton and several (4?) other five-star hotels. All the other guests at the Ritz were told to leave. Cited reports state there is a heavy guard around the Ritz.

The prince removed from the National Guard was the most senior official who was not part of King Salman’s family branch. That would mean he was, up until the weekend, the most senior level opposition to MBS and King Salman.

In the Saudi system, the National Guard is one of three main intelligence agencies. That makes it a major power base. I’ll also guess it is one of three overall security agencies.

Just below the level of headlines are several comments I’ve read in various articles that a large number of clerics have also been arrested over the last few months.

More and more the goal of this weekend’s operation is becoming clear: it is a power consolidation effort aimed at eliminating competition to the current king and heir apparent. Forming the anti-corruption agency, removing the head of the National Guard, shutting down flights, and massive arrests all on the same day roll up into a major, planned effort to remove the opposition.

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