Saudi crown prince’s rise hides dark side

The Maui News - - WORLD -

DUBAI, United Arab Emi­rates — In a king­dom once ruled by an ever-ag­ing ro­ta­tion of el­derly mon­archs, Saudi Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man stands out as the youth­ful face of a youth­ful na­tion. But be­hind the care­fully cal­i­brated pub­lic-re­la­tions cam­paign push­ing im­ages of the smil­ing prince meet­ing with the world’s top lead­ers and busi­ness ex­ec­u­tives lurks a darker side.

Last year, at age 31, Mo­hammed be­came the king­dom’s crown prince, next in line to the throne now held by his oc­to­ge­nar­ian fa­ther, King Sal­man. While push­ing for women to drive, he has over­seen the ar­rest of women’s rights ac­tivists. While call­ing for for­eign in­vest­ment, he has im­pris­oned busi­ness­men, roy­als and oth­ers in a crack­down on cor­rup­tion that soon re­sem­bled a shake­down of the king­dom’s most pow­er­ful peo­ple.

As Saudi de­fense min­is­ter from the age of 29, he pur­sued a war in Ye­men against Shi­ite rebels that be­gan a month af­ter he took the helm and wears on to­day.

What the crown prince chooses next likely will af­fect the world’s largest oil pro­ducer for decades to come. And as the dis­ap­pear­ance and feared death of Saudi jour­nal­ist Ja­mal Khashoggi in Is­tan­bul may show, the young prince will brook no dis­sent in re­shap­ing the king­dom in his im­age.

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