Saudi Arabia released the world’s richest businessman and prince Al-Waleed bin Talal’s brother, Prince Khaled bin Talal. This happened while outrage over Khashoggi’s murder case continues to grapple the kingdom. Appearing as one of the many attempts made to whitewash the kingdom’s image against charges of murdering the Washington Post journalist, has caught the crown prince in a tough situation. Exactly one year ago, the Saudi purge took place arresting the named and famed from the kingdom. Princes, businessmen, and government officials, were some of those netted in a roundup commanded by the anti-corruption committee. The committee was decreed by king Salman and headed by his favorite son, Mohammed bin Salman aka MbS.
Had Trump not bargained on US’ foreign policy, the aggravation of MbS’ dictatorship in Saudi Arabia had a chance seize, but it only seems to have evolved since the 2017 Saudi Arabian Purge.
How Have Situations Changed, Or Not?
The 2017 Saudi Arabian purge saw the arrest of 500 prominent people from business, government sector, and royal circle, sending shock waves across the globe. Besides the arrest of prince Al-Waleed bin Talal in the crackdown at Ritz Carlton, Riyadh, his brother prince Khaled bin Talal was also arrested.
‘Portrayed’ as a move to eradicate corruption from the kingdom, it was expected that reforms were soon to change the face of Saudi Arabia. However, situations in the kingdom have certainly changed since the purge, but only for the worse. Since, the endeavor of driving out corruption only revealed a much darker side to MbS’ leadership.
Not only had corruption soared by now, but MbS’ oppression took its toll on Saudi Arabia by coming out in different forms. The Saudi-led coalition induced the biggest humanitarian crisis in Yemen by shelling civilian areas with erratic air strikes. In addition, a rise in the number of torture and detention cases against peaceful human rights advocates, execution of activists and dissidents, and murder of journalists and scholars had transpired in the kingdom. Saudi was only getting worse by each day since the 2017 Saudi Arabian purge.
Pampered by Washington
Saudi Arabia wasn’t operating alone, but was supported by neighboring ally UAE and Western ally US. MbS would have struggled to gain trust in the West without the advocacy and promotion by UAE’s ambassador to the US and one of Washington’s most powerful men, Yousef al Otaiba. Gradually, with the help of Otaiba’s lobbying and connections inside the White House and Trump administration, Saudi Arabia was able to compromise with the US foreign policy.
The President of United States, Donald Trump banned Muslims from the US, while he covertly built cozy relations with the Saudis. The 2017 Saudi Arabian purge was a moment for Washington to figure out establishment of its foreign policy. However, it struck a bargain deal with MbS, losing all sense of integrity. The deal was simple: MbS would project his aim of modernizing Saudi Arabia, and Trump would believe it (based on the price of the deal). This was clearly not how the world measured modernization of a country.
Prince Khaled’s release only reminds of a bargained Washington foreign policy that resulted in Saudi purge, arresting 500 diplomats, businessmen and royals. There has been no detail on either why prince Khaled was arrested or why was he released now, after a year since the purge. Suspicion particularly rises over the release of prince Al-Waleed’s brother, as it comes exactly when Saudi is struggling to balance its well-advertised image battling with Khashoggi murder charges. There seems to be no end to the cruelties practiced by the dictatorial leader, Mohammed bin Salman, considering his immediate and clever ways of whitewashing errors instead of fixing them.
The world has only witnessed an increase in Saudi’s violation of human rights since the throning of prince Mohammed bin Salman. However, despite being king Salman’s favorite son and advisor, MbS’ decisions towards his kingdom couldn’t prove fruitful in developing the nation. In fact, the reforms got backfired by the consequences of introducing them. Journalists who spoke of it or activists who opposed it, got either jailed or executed in the kingdom’s famous chop-chop square, or even secretly inside their consulates.
The question remains, if not MbS then who? Dethroning MbS is not the solution to the destruction Saudi Arabia has been put through. A clearheaded and righteous leader who protects his kingdom instead of repressing it, is what Saudi looks up to right now.
Will the country ever overcome the traumatic reign of MbS?