Very rarely are major moves, or any event on the international stage for that matter, mono-causal, particularly ones that are—and I do not use this term loosely—unprecedented. But they do not answer some key questions: Why now and why so many individuals who are not members of the royal family?
What if their main goal really is to address white collar, financial crimes?
Saudi Arabia’s citizenry will increasingly be confronted with a centuries-old situation many before them have faced: Taxation without representation. The government realises this is problematic and a serious crackdown on corruption also sends a very clear message to the country’s population, of which two-thirds are under 30 and very aware of the world around them: We may be asking you to give us more money, but we’ll make damn sure that every riyal is spent on improving this country and your quality of life.
“It is not clear, however, that this will have a significant impact, with the current blockade and entry limits apparently not achieving this aim,” said Miriam Eps Regional Security Analyst at Le Beck International.
Although humanitarian activities are expected to continue, Ms Eps thinks that the closures are liable to slow down the entry of aid, “impacting the already existing crisis and affecting the average Yemeni more than Houthi fighters.”
“These arrests achieve three main objectives: Further consolidation of power, concrete action against corruption, and a clear message to all Saudi citizens,” said Miriam Eps, regional security analyst at Manama-based risk management consultancy Le Beck International. “Importantly, I think it also sends another, very clear message that domestic critics should think twice before speaking out, regardless of their position.”
The reaction of the Saudi business community “will really relate to how the arrests are perceived,” she said. “The main concern here is some uncertainty as to why these individuals were detained, i.e., questions as to whether it truly is just corruption-related or something more.”
Appointing less prominent royals from clans other than King Salman’s to official positions may address some concerns regarding power sharing, she said. But “it is also liable to cause apprehension that the lifestyle many royal family members are used to and expect could be threatened,” she said.