In a crackdown against corruption, Saudia Arabia government on Saturday announced the arrest of some of the most influential people in the country, including powerful princes, leading businessmen and government ministers. The arrests are being overseen by Saudi’s heir to the throne, crown prince Mohammad Bin Salman. Those who were taken into custody overnight on Saturday includes the Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, one of the richest men in the world.
Here is everything you need to know about Mohammad Bin Salman:
Who is Mohammad Bin Salman?
Mohammad bin Salman, the son of King Salman, was ascended to the position of Crowned Prince earlier in June this year. He also currently holds the position of defence minister. Born in the year 1985, Prince Mohammad was also named as the deputy prime minister of the country. He also heads the Council for Economic and Development Affairs. He also served in the position of chief of the royal court.
Prince Mohammad did his schooling in Riyadh district of Saudia Arabia. He was among the top 10 students during graduation, according to a report by Al-Arabiya. The report further says that the prince completed his Bachelor’s degree in law from King Saud University, and ranked second in his class.
Before devoting himself to the politics of the country, the crowned prince gained international experience in corporate governance and international finance. He started his political career by working as a consultant to the Experts Commission under Saudi cabinet.
Prince Mohammad served as the special advisor to then Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz in 2009. Around the same time, Prince Mohammad was also appointed as the secretary-general of the Riyadh Competitive Council. He also worked as a special advisor to the chairman of the Board for the King Abdulaziz Foundation for Research and Archives. By royal decree, Prince Mohammad bin Salman was nominated as the head of the Crown Prince Court, as a minister, and a special advisor the then Prince Salman, in 2013. A year later, he was included in the Cabinet as a member and was also appointed as a state minister.
According to a report by Bloomberg, Prince Mohammad started gaining power after his father became king in 2015. As per the report, he “gained unprecedented control over key state entities”. Another report by The Guardian adds that King Salman, 81, who is reportedly not in the best of health, maybe planning to abdicate the throne in the near future. This prompted him to settle the power struggle between Prince Mohammad and his 57-year old cousin, Prince Muhammad bin Nayef, by naming the former as the crown prince in less than three years after succeeding the throne.
John Hannah, a senior counsellor at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, an Iran-skeptic think tank in Washington, compared the rise of Prince Mohammad with President Xi Jinping. Speaking to news agency AP, Hannah said that Prince Mohammad has “latched onto corruption as a way to consolidate his power and remake the regime in his image,” just like how China President Xi Jinping used corruption charges “as a battering ram to consolidate his own power and authority.”
In an interview with Al Arabiya News Channel, former US President Barack Obama described Prince Mohammad as an “extremely knowledgeable, very smart”. He added that the crown prince is “wise beyond his years.” According to a report by Dawn, the 31-year old is nicknamed by diplomats as “Mr Everything”.
Prince Mohammad is the main force behind Saudi’s development plans — Vision 2030. And according to a Dawn report, he aims “to bring social and economic changes to the oil-dependent economy of a country where women’s rights are among the most restricted in the world.”
A report in Bloomberg says Prince Mohammad “intends to turn the Saudi sovereign wealth fund into the world’s largest.” He is known to have made efforts to loosen the restrictions on entertainment. He is also known for pursuing a more assertive foreign policy, with the aim to boost Saudi’s influence across the region. According to Bloomberg, his public criticism of Iran signals tensions of proxy wars. Within two months of his tenure as the defence minister, Saudi Arabia, along with its allies, mounted a coalition attack in Yemen.
On Saturday, the coalition forces in Yemen closed off land, sea and airports in the country, after a rebel-fired ballistic missile targeted Riyadh.