A Purge in Riyadh

What Mohammed bin Salman’s Crackdown Means for Saudi Arabia and the Middle East

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh, November 2017. Reuters

The night of November 4 will long be remembered in Saudi Arabia as a turning point. Three events took place in Riyadh: the arrest of several dozen Saudi princes, officials, and business leaders; the resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri; and the shooting down of a ballistic missile, launched from Yemen, aimed at the city’s King Khalid International Airport. What linked all of these developments was the figure of young Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. In a bid to centralize authority and smooth the path for his eventual accession to the throne, MbS, as he is known, has sought to overhaul the personnel and organizational structure of his country’s domestic politics and enact a newly assertive foreign policy.


The list of those arrested was long, and shocked Saudis and seasoned observers, for it included people who had previously seemed untouchable—in particular, senior royals. The arrests were ostensibly

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