WASHINGTON – U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday endorsed a move by Saudi Arabia’s future king that tightened his grip on power through the arrests of royals, ministers and investors in an anti-corruption purge.
Trump tweeted on Monday that he had “Great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia” following the mass arrests – the biggest such purge of the kingdom’s affluent elite in its modern history.
The purge was the latest in a series of dramatic steps by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, or MbS as he is commonly referred to in Western circles, to assert Saudi influence internationally and amass more power for himself at home.
“He seeks to reinvigorate the public’s confidence in the Saudi monarchy by diversifying the economy, loosening religious restrictions, and carrying out wide ranging social reforms,” the official said.
Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, the president’s senior adviser, who has cultivated a close relationship with MbS, recently returned from Saudi Arabia, fuelling speculation on whether he may have had wind of MbS’ plans.
The Trump administration has vowed to confront Iran much more aggressively in the region, where it shares the Saudi view that Tehran is fomenting instability via a number of proxies in Lebanon, Syria and Yemen among other countries.
Events in Saudi Arabia in recent days appeared to open the prospect for a sharper confrontation with Iran and its proxies.
The Pentagon praised Saudi Arabia for “Exposing” Iran’s role in Yemen and Tehran’s provision of missile systems to Houthi militia fighting there.