Saudi Arabia Arrests 11 Princes Interview [NPR]

November 5, 2017

Eleven princes were arrested in Saudi Arabia in what the kingdom calls a corruption sweep. Lulu Garcia-Navarro talks with H.A. Hellyer of the Atlantic Council.

Transcript:

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

One of the world’s richest people is under arrest in Saudi Arabia. He’s one of the 11 princes arrested in what the kingdom is calling a corruption sweep. H.A. Hellyer is with the Atlantic Council, and he joins me now from Cairo. Good morning.

HA HELLYER: Good morning.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So tell me who these people who’ve been arrested are, exactly?

HELLYER: Most of these people, with the exception of one, are people who are very well-off within Saudi Arabia. And nearly all of them aren’t actually political figures. There’s one political figure who’s actually incredibly significant within Saudi, but the rest of them are mainly businessmen. And I say businessmen with, you know, a bit of a smile because the amount of wealth that each of these individuals has is probably enough to fund the GDP of several countries. They have all been arrested and detained. The way in which they were detained was to claim an anti-corruption sweep. The details of that are yet unclear. And it seems that it’s a further consolidation of power for Mohammed bin Salman.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: He’s the 32-year-old son of King Salman, who has been consolidating power.

HELLYER: Indeed. And the suspicion within Saudi and within the region more generally is that Mohammed bin Salman is going to end up being king sooner rather than later. And this would seem to be a way in which his power is consolidated before he finally takes that next and final step.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So some analysts are calling this unprecedented in Saudi history. Members of the royal family are normally protected and not arrested. You’re saying that this is about him consolidating power. But what signal is this sending across Saudi Arabia, do you think?

HELLYER: So a few things. First, indeed, it is unprecedented in the sense that it happened very quickly and all at once, OK? I’m not sure it’s unprecedented in the history of Saudi or in the Gulf more generally for these types of steps to be taken. But they usually take place over much longer periods of time and are delicately done. And, you know, consensus is looked for. In this case, no, indeed. It’s unprecedented that it happened all at once like this. And the fact that they were all arrested them in this fashion is certainly not what one would expect. Having said that, they’ve also apparently been put in the Ritz-Carlton. So their detainment is being done in a particular fashion.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yes, indeed. Very comfortable.

HELLYER: We may see in the next few days some people come out. We don’t know. But the message that it definitely sends across Saudi society is that the crown prince has a particular vision in mind for how – for where he wants his country to go. He’s in the driver’s seat. And everybody better get on with bending the knee.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. That’s H.A. Hellyer, a fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London and the Atlantic Council here in Washington. Thank you very much for speaking with us today.

HELLYER: Thank you. Have a good day.

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