MOHAMMED BIN SALMAN, the Saudi crown prince known for his bold and sometimes reckless steps to transform his country and its place in the Middle East, has staged his biggest coup yet. On Saturday, 11 princes and three dozen other senior officials and big businessmen were arrested on his orders, including the commander of the national guard, the economy minister and Saudi Arabia’s leading international financier. Though they are reportedly being held in luxury hotels, Saudi media are describing them as “traitors,” an ominous sign of what may be in store.
As if that were not enough for one weekend, the 32-year-old prince flexed Saudi muscles across the region. Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, a client, announced his resignation on a Saudi television channel, triggering a crisis with Iranian-backed Hezbollah, which was part of his coalition. The Saudis then declared a blockade of Yemeni airspace and borders after blaming the Tehran-allied Houthi movement for a missile attack on Riyadh’s airport. On Monday, Prince Salman abruptly summoned Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has been negotiating a political pact with the Hamas movement.
The sweeping initiatives appeared aimed at consolidating the power of an emerging ruler who is poised to succeed his 81-year-old father, King Salman, and to double down on Saudi Arabia’s challenge to Shiite Iran. The young prince appears to have the full support of President Trump and senior advisers such as Jared Kushner, who visited Riyadh and conferred at length with the crown prince only days before the crackdown. If so, it’s a risky bet.
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