The Saudi crackdown has nothing to do with corruption, Escobar pointed out, saying the Crown Prince “knows exactly what he’s doing – which is an old-style purge or what I called the ‘Night of the Saudi long knives’ where he got rid of any potential high-profile contenders against his one-man rule.”
“Don’t forget, Saudi Arabia has no independent judiciary, no freedom of expression, no credible opposition. And in fact, King Salman isn’t ruling – who’s ruling is actually MBS [Mohammed bin Salman],” he said.
The detentions of 11 Saudi princes, four ministers and dozens of business figures that shook the kingdom on Saturday weren’t as unexpected as the media outlets wanted the audience to believe, Escobar says. He explains that shortly before the arrests, in late October, “there was a famous ‘Davos in the Desert’ conference where the new crown prince and the new leadership outlined the future of Saudi Arabia as envisioned until 2030, which implies a lot of investment – especially, American investors… Larry Fink, Stephen Schwarzman.”
Three thousand international politicians and businessmen arrived in Riyadh for the Future Investment Initiative Conference, where bin Salman unveiled his plans to create a $500 billion investment zone, double the size of the Saudi sovereign wealth fund to $400 billion and restore a more tolerant order in the country.
“And few days later, Jared Kushner [US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser] was in Riyadh where he has been bonding very closely with the Crown Prince. The next day there was the ‘Night of the long knives,’” Escobar said. “Trump has kept his hands off the matter,” Escobar said, adding that “what I get from some of my best sources – they [people close to Trump] have been doing business deals with the House of Saud [Saudi ruling royal family] for decades.”
The agreement between Washington and Riyadh “involves personal deals; this involves new foreign policy that’s very complex and, especially, [includes] antagonizing Iran and Lebanon,” he said.
On Saturday, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri unexpectedly announced his resignation while on a visit to Saudi Arabia – a move which Escobar described as “completely absurd.” Lebanese militant movement Hezbollah has accused Riyadh of intimidating the PM, while the Saudis responded by accusing Lebanon of “declaring war” on the kingdom by allowing Hezbollah’s “aggression” against it, according to the Al-Arabiya broadcaster.
Those behind the Saudi Crown Prince don’t differentiate between Hezbollah and the Lebanese government, Escobar believes. This makes a Saudi military conflict with the neighboring state a real possibility and “this is a very serious development.”