The New Yorker:
With the tacit support of President Trump, King Salman of Saudi Arabia and his powerful son launched an unprecedented purge of their own family over the weekend. The major targets were royal brethren who controlled money, the media, or the military. Among the dozens arrested were eleven senior princes, several current or former ministers, the owners of three major television stations, the head of the most important military branch, and one of the wealthiest men in the world, who has been a major shareholder in Citibank, Twentieth Century Fox, Apple, Twitter, and Lyft.
“It’s the equivalent of waking up to find Warren Buffett and the heads of ABC, CBS and NBC have been arrested,” a former U.S. official told me. “It has all the appearances of a coup d’état. Saudi Arabia is rapidly becoming another country. The kingdom has never been this unstable.”
The purge sent shockwaves of fear through the kingdom—one of the world’s two largest producers and exporters of oil—as well as the Middle East, global financial markets, and the international community. The arrests continued on Monday, with no indication when the crackdown might end.
Both critics and supporters believe that the purge’s mastermind is Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has had a meteoric rise since he was appointed by his father to be defense minister, at the age of twenty-nine, in 2015. He has vowed to modernize the ultra-conservative tribal society. But, to do it, he has grabbed all the major economic, political, security, and royal court portfolios. In June, he was instrumental in ousting the former Crown Prince—Prince Nayef, a senior royal and the closest U.S. ally inside the monarchy—to become next in line to the throne. (Nayef is still under house arrest, according to Human Rights Watch.) In September, Crown Prince Mohammed orchestrated the arrest of well-known intellectuals and clerics.
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