Why the Saudi "Purge" Is Not What It Seems to Be

(Arabia Foundation) Ali Shihabi - The "purge" by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) of numerous members of the royal family, as well as current and former ministers and prominent businessmen, on charges of corruption is not about removing political rivals who threatened his position, but rather about sending a message to political and economic elites that their entitlement to extreme wealth and privilege, and their impunity, is coming to an end. With the exception of Minister of the National Guard Prince Mutaib bin Abdallah, the detainee list is made up entirely of individuals who had no capacity to challenge MBS' succession. Nor did Prince Mutaib, despite leading the national guard, pose a political threat to the Crown Prince. Given the relatively young age of the new Crown Prince, his appointment last June naturally alienated many of MBS' older cousins, and even some uncles, who suddenly found themselves politically marginalized. But alienation does not mean that these princes possess the power to threaten the throne or to determine the succession. No royal maintains an independent constituency among the population at large that they can galvanize against the monarchy. King Salman and MBS have chosen to go the populist route by appealing to the Saudi public, and specifically to the youth, rather than seeking to placate the many "losers" by lavishing them with money (a tactic widely used in the past that was highly unpopular with the Saudi public and that has become increasingly unaffordable). Now there will be no paying-off of discontented princes in exchange for their loyalty and acquiescence.

2017-11-10 00:00:00

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