Washington Week

Friday Nights on PBS

What’s happening in Saudi Arabia?

President Donald Trump and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Photo courtesy of White House Flickr.

By Halima Gikandi

A shocking series of events in Saudi Arabia over the weekend has left the world struggling to keep up.

Several arrests, a missile, and a high profile resignation are only the latest in back-to-back changes in the gulf country.

The developments seem to be driven in part by King Salman’s efforts to pave the way for his quickly rising son and heir apparent Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Here are a few things to know about what’s happening in Saudi Arabia. 

President Donald Trump and King Salman of Saudi Arabia. Photo courtesy of White House Flickr.

  • The young crown prince is rapidly changing Saudi Arabia. Prince Mohammed has been the driving force behind many eyebrow raising domestic and foreign policy campaigns, including promoting a “moderate” form of Islam and lifting a ban that prevented women from driving. Seventy percent of the Saudi population is under the age of 30.
  • The kingdom created a new anti-corruption committee headed by Prince Mohammed. Hours later, the committee detained dozens of Saudi officials, princes, and former ministers in an apparent move to consolidate power and clean house.
  •  Billionaire investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal was also arrested. The news sent shockwaves throughout the global business community, which is eagerly trying to cash in on the kingdom’s aggressive efforts to diversify its economy. Alwaleed, often called the Warren Buffet of Arabia, owns major stakes in companies like Twitter, Lyft and Citigroup.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. Photo courtesy of White House Flickr.

  •  The Saudi military intercepted a ballistic missile from Yemen. The kingdom later blamed Iran for the attack and described it as an “act of war.” This was a major escalation in the proxy war Saudi Arabia and Iran have been fighting in Yemen.
  • Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned from Saudi Arabia. Hariri, a close ally to the kingdom, blamed Iran for its interference in the Middle East in the latest sign of growing tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
  • Jared Kushner recently visited Prince Mohammed. The Trump son-in-law and senior advisor met the crown prince during an unannounced trip to Saudi Arabia, highlighting the Trump administration’s efforts to tighten ties with the U.S. ally.