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Deeper Unease in House of Saud

Deeper Unease in House of SaudDeeper Unease in House of Saud

When news broke of a possible breakthrough in an impasse that has pitted Qatar against its Arab neighbors for the past three months, one of Saudi Arabia’s most well-known clerics expressed his support for reconciliation in a tweet to his more than 14 million followers.

“May God bring their hearts together for the good of their people,” Salman al-Ouda wrote, garnering 15,000 likes, 13,000 retweets and nearly 2,000 responses, AP reported.

Within hours of his post Saturday, the cleric was detained, sparking the start of a crackdown in which at least 30 people have been rounded up in recent days as apparent Islamist sympathizers and critics of the crown prince, according to Saudi rights activists.

Among those reportedly detained was Awad al-Qarni, another popular cleric who was banned from writing on Twitter in March on charges he spread content on social media that could jeopardize public order and provoke public opinion.

The arrests have thrown an already anxious kingdom into deeper unease, raising questions about the country’s steadiness amid mounting speculation that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MBS, could soon replace his father as king.

Political risk consultancy Eurasia Group estimates that “in the near future” King Salman could relinquish power to MBS, giving the aging monarch an opportunity to oversee a potentially fraught transition while he’s still alive.

The spate of arrests this week could be seen as an attempt by MBS to show strength ahead of such a move. It also helps appease ultraconservative Salafi Saudi clerics, known as Wahhabis, who disagree with Islamist calls for western-style ballot box democracy. They have also been rankled by aspects of the 32-year-old crown prince’s reform agenda, known as Vision 2030.

Saudi Arabia’s council of state-backed Wahhabi clerics said on Twitter after the arrests that the country was founded on the Quran and the words and actions of the Prophet Muhammad “so there is no place for political parties or ideologies.”

 

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