Saudi Arabia neared the precipice of change over the course of a weekend amid increased tensions with Iran and the momentous and unprecedented palace purge of dozens of royal officials at the hands of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Officials arrested dozens of senior officials, including top princes, ministers and a billionaire tycoon Saturday, accusing them of corruption, suggesting that no one is beyond the reach of the crown prince. Bin Salman is deputy prime minister of Saudi Arabia, thereby placing him as the future leader of the oil-rich kingdom.
Skeptics argue the sweeping arrests are an aggressive effort by the prince to consolidate his family’s power by eliminating any potential for dissent among other powerful factions in the country.
“If it’s not handled properly, first of all if there’s no change, there will be a revolution,” former Gulf Oil CEO Joe Petrowski told FOX Business’ Neil Cavuto. “Saudis got a lot of things that, right now, are very combustible.”
That includes a large minority of Shiites, a shrinking revenue thanks to declining oil prices and a young population eager for change -- a platform that the young prince has promised to deliver on. Bin Salman advocated for women’s rights, namely the allowance of women to drive and to enter into sports stadiums alongside men, and plans to sell part of the country’s state-owned oil company Aramco in what will likely be one of the largest initial public offerings ever.
The prince needs to walk a fine line, however, Petrowski said during an interview on “Cavuto: Coast to Coast.” If he fails to deliver on efforts to bring Saudi Arabia into the 21st century, there could be room for adversaries like Iran and Lebanon to interfere and create strife among the population.
“And the people, with the [discrepancy] of income being so great, and the corruption they see in the high lifestyles, really adds to that. So he has to effect an anti-corruption campaign,” he said. “The problem is, this is not Teddy Roosevelt in 1900 busting trust. He’s got to make sure he does it with due process.”
Saudi Arabia thwarted a missile attack on Riyadh’s main airport this weekend, calling it an “act of war” by Iran and threatening to retaliate. Rebels from Yemen, which has been embroiled in a years-long conflict with Saudi Arabia, claimed responsibility for the missile, but officials said the debris from the missile proved it was made in Iran.
“I think Iran and Saudi Arabia could eventually go to war,” he said. “They are the two major actors in the Middle East, and certainly have no love lost for each other, either from a political or a religious standpoint. But again, I think he has to make reforms.”