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The crown prince has big plans for his society. RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — I never thought I’d live long enough to write this sentence: The most significant reform process underway anywhere in the Middle East today is in Saudi Arabia. Unlike the other Arab Springs — all of which emerged bottom up and failed miserably, except in Tunisia — this one is led from the top down by the country’s 32-year-old crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, and, if it succeeds, it will not only change the character of Saudi Arabia but the tone and tenor of Islam across the globe. Only a fool would predict its success — but only a fool would not root for it.
November, when his government arrested scores of Saudi princes and businessmen on charges of corruption and threw them into a makeshift gilded jail — the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton — until they agreed to surrender their ill-gotten gains. You don’t see that every day. We met at night at his family’s ornate adobe-walled palace in Ouja, north of Riyadh. English, while his brother, Prince Khalid, the new Saudi ambassador to the U. After nearly four hours together, I surrendered at 1:15 a. I was exactly twice his age. We started with the obvious question: What’s happening at the Ritz?
And was this his power play to eliminate his family and private sector rivals before his ailing father, King Salman, turns the keys of the kingdom over to him? Our country has suffered a lot from corruption from the 1980s until today. My father saw that there is no way we can stay in the G-20 and grow with this level of corruption. In early 2015, one of his first orders to his team was to collect all the information about corruption — at the top. This team worked for two years until they collected the most accurate information, and then they came up with about 200 names. King Salman praying at Quba mosque in Medina, Saudi Arabia, this month. When all the data was ready, the public prosecutor, Saud al-Mojib, took action, M.
About 4 percent say they are not corrupt and with their lawyers want to go to court. Under Saudi law, the public prosecutor is independent. How much money are they recovering? I called my middle man and he doesn’t answer. Saudi business people who paid bribes to get services done by bureaucrats are not being prosecuted, explained M.
The stakes are high for M. If the public feels that he is truly purging corruption that was sapping the system and doing so in a way that is transparent and makes clear to future Saudi and foreign investors that the rule of law will prevail, it will really instill a lot of new confidence in the system. But one thing I know for sure: Not a single Saudi I spoke to here over three days expressed anything other than effusive support for this anticorruption drive. The Saudi silent majority is clearly fed up with the injustice of so many princes and billionaires ripping off their country. Men entering Alrajhi Mosque for noon prayer last month.
This anticorruption drive is only the second-most unusual and important initiative launched by M. The first is to bring Saudi Islam back to its more open and modern orientation — whence it diverted in 1979. That is, back to what M. These three events together freaked out the Saudi ruling family at the time, and prompted it to try to shore up its legitimacy by allowing its Wahhabi clerics to impose a much more austere Islam on the society and by launching a worldwide competition with Iran’s ayatollahs over who could export more fundamentalist Islam. It didn’t help that the U.