Saudi Arrests, Missiles and Proxy Conflict, All in Just Five DaysBy and
Saudi princes, billionaires, officials arrested in crackdown
Iran-Saudi proxy conflict jumps to the fore in Lebanon, Yemen
Even for an OPEC powerhouse intent on re-inventing itself domestically and flexing its muscles in one of the world’s most turbulent regions, the past week has been remarkable.
Saudi police arrested 11 princes, four ministers and dozens of former ministers and billionaires in what authorities described as an anti-corruption drive and critics saw as a power grab by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. And if the domestic drama wasn’t enough, Saudi Arabia’s proxy confrontation with Iran for regional dominance unexpectedly heated up, sending oil prices higher and adding to the uncertainty roiling stock markets in the Middle East.
Here’s a breakdown of the events and subsequent fallout:
November 4: Turmoil Begins
- Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri unexpectedly resigns in a televised speech from Saudi Arabia, saying he feared for his life and accusing Iran and its proxies of destabilizing the country and the region.
- Hours later, Yemen’s Houthi militias, embroiled in a war with a Saudi-led coalition, fire a ballistic missile at Riyadh’s King Khalid International Airport, reaching furthest into Saudi territory than previous attempts. The missile is shot down by Saudi air defenses.
- Shortly before midnight, Saudi authorities arrest 11 princes, four ministers and dozens of former ministers on orders from a newly established anti-corruption committee formed by King Salman and headed by his son and heir Prince Mohammed. Among those arrested is billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, one of the world’s richest men. The king also dismissed Prince Miteb bin Abdullah from his post as head of the powerful National Guard.
November 5: Regional and Market Fallout
- The chief of Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah group, Hassan Nasrallah, says Saudi Arabia was behind Hariri’s unexpected resignation. Iran denies arming Houthis with the missile.
- Lebanese Eurobonds tumble amid rising concerns the country would be a battleground for the Iranian-Saudi conflict.
November 6: Saudis Push Back
- The Saudi central bank is said to have instructed banks to freeze accounts of corruption suspects.
- Attorney General Sheikh Saud Al Motjeb says in a statement that the arrests were “merely the start of a vital process to root out corruption wherever it exists.” He adds that those detained will have access to legal counsel and pledges to hold trials “in a timely and open manner.”
- Saudi Arabia says the Houthi missile attack could amount to an “act of war” by Iran and offers $440 million bounty for intelligence on 40 Houthi rebel leaders.
- Saudi state minister for Gulf affairs, Thamer al-Sabhan, warns Lebanon over siding with Hezbollah against the kingdom.
- Brent crude prices jump 3.5 percent to $64.27 a barrel.
November 7: The Crackdown Expands
- The Saudi crackdown widens as central bank asks banks in the kingdom to freeze the accounts of dozens of individuals who aren’t under arrest, according to three people with knowledge of the matter
- Trump praises the Saudi sweep in tweets, saying he has “great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, they know exactly what they are doing.”
- Prince Alwaleed’s Kingdom Holding shares drop 10 percent, bringing its three-day loss to more than 20 percent.
- The central bank says only personal accounts were frozen, not corporate accounts.
- Iran “categorically” rejects Saudi Arabia’s “baseless and unfounded accusations and considers it as destructive, provocative and a ‘threat to use of force”’ against a United Nations member state, the official IRNA news agency reports.
November 8: White House Weighs in Again
- The U.S. says it welcomes Saudi Arabia’s “statement exposing the Iranian regime’s support for Houthi militias, including the supply of illegal arms such as ballistic missiles.”