Mass arrests: Replay of Egypt Sept. 1981 in Saudi Arabia

His tool is the new “anti-corruption committee” as Mohamed bin Salman (MbS) arrests Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah, removing him from his post as leader of the National Guard; something he has been itching to do since launching the Yemen War for the sole purpose of consolidating his power over the country’s armed forces.

The new committee puts itself above and beyond the law, it is “exempt from laws, regulations, instructions, orders and decisions while the committee shall perform the following tasks: … the investigation issuance of arrest warrants, travel ban, disclosure and freezing of accounts and portfolios, tracking of funds, assets, and preventing their remittance or transfer by persons and entities who ever they might be. The committee has the right to take any precautionary measures it sees, until they are referred to the investigating authorities or judicial bodies”.

MbS also arrests 10 other princes, as well media moghuls Al-Walid Bin Talal (Rotana), Walid Al Brahim (MBC) and Saleh Kamel (ART), whilst freezing their assets. This puts MbS at the head of all of the Saudi media outlets. His arrest of Bakr bin Laden, and his recall of Saad el-Hariri from Lebanon (the Bin Laden group and Saudi Oger being the Kingdom’s two largest contractors)would appear to be part of MbS’s massive wealth grab. Hariri’s explanation that he is fear for his life in Lebanon, and cannot go back, is cover for the fact that he is under house arrest in Riyadh.

All this follows the arrests of many intellectuals, writers and activists as a pre-emptive measure to hinder potential opposition to new secularisation policies.  While this early phase of arrests was purely political, the quality of wealth grab clearly evident in this second phase points to failure of Riyadh’s Plan A in that regard: the invasion and absorption of Qatar. It would appear that all these arrests have been organised for MbS by operatives of his adviser and confidante, Mohamed bin Zayed of Abu Dhabi, whom he is relying on as an outside force unconnected to Saudi society and therefore not subject to any pressures to resist the crown Prince’s orders.

These events are an ominous replay of September 1981, when Anwar el-Sadat ordered a highly unpopular roundup of more than 1500 people, including many Islamic Jihad members in Egypt, but also the Coptic Pope and other Coptic clergy, intellectuals and activists of all ideological stripes, who were protesting the manner of his headlong peace deal with Israel.