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Fresh Prince

The Schemes and Dreams of Saudi Arabia’s Next King

MBS in Mecca, June 2017 Handout / Reuters

It is not often that a Ritz-Carlton becomes a detention facility. But last November, when a large slice of the Saudi elite was arrested on accusations of corruption, the luxury hotel in Riyadh became a gilded prison for hundreds of princes, billionaires, and high-ranking government officials. Behind this crackdown was the young crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MBS, who is attempting to remake the kingdom’s economy and social life, and even the House of Saud itself. 

At only 32, MBS is already the most powerful figure in contemporary Saudi history, having sidelined other members of the ruling family with the full support of his father, King Salman. His concentrated authority and evident will to shake up the system make it possible for him to do great things. But he has also removed the restraints that have made Saudi foreign and domestic policy cautious, conservative, and ultimately successful

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