Saudi Arabia’s so-called corruption crackdown over the weekend has pushed up oil prices and could be the beginning of a power struggle within the region as tensions escalate.
After the Kingdom’s newly created anti-corruption committee moved to arrest 11 princes, four ministers and tens of former ministers — including well-known billionaire investor dubbed the Middle East’s Warren Buffet, prince Alwaleed bin Talal — the country now has closed all ports in Yemen and warned Iran over what it calls military “aggression”.
Meanwhile, the private airport in the Saudi Arabia capital Riyadh was closed to prevent personal jets being used to assist any escape of those arrested.
News of the arrests came hours after Saudi forces intercepted a ballistic missile fired towards Riyadh’s airport, an escalation of the Kingdom’s war with Yemen.
A statement released by the country’s press agency said Iran’s recent actions to arm and mobilise Houthi rebels in Yemen “could rise to be considered as an act of war against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and thus affirms the legitimate right of the Kingdom to defend its territory and people in accordance with Article (51) of the UN Charter.”
Saudi Arabia has been fighting a proxy war in Yemen against Iran, which it accuses of arming the rebels.
Iran has however already dismissed allegations that it provided missiles to Houthi rebels.
The series of arrests, ordered by Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman — the favorite son and top adviser of King Salman — over the weekend have been interpreted as efforts to consolidate the power but are unlikely to be viewed favourably by international investors.
Under bin Salman’s instruction the country has embarked on a campaign to open the country to overseas investment and diversiy the country away from its reliance on oil exports.
The plan is known as the Saudi Vision 2030 and includes plans for a $500bn mega city, called Neom.
Oil hit a fresh two-year high today with Brent crude climbing to $62.55 a barrel — its highest level since July 2015 due fears tensions in the Middle East will drag on supply.