Mohammed bin Salman, the 34-year-old Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, is the world’s most powerful millennial; he’s not only heir to a $1 trillion fortune, he’s also in charge of Saudi Arabia’s economy, giving him enormous influence all over the world. On this episode of Who Is, host Sean Morrow finds out about bin Salman, how he’s been wielding his power in his own country and abroad, and outlines the many brazen actions – like ordering the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi or abducting the Lebanese Prime Minister – that should have gotten Saudi Arabia kicked off the international stage. But due to their huge spending power and the world’s reliance on their vast oil reserves, Saudi Arabia and bin Salman are literally getting away with murder.
Sean starts off by giving us a brief background into Saudi Arabian and American relations, which is based on oil, of course. Bin Salman’s grandfather, King ibn Saud, knew the country could be sitting on a goldmine of natural gas and oil, but didn’t have the money to dig for it. So the American conglomerate Standard Oil stepped in, creating the Aramco oil company. By the 1950s, the royal family was raking in half the revenues; by the 1980s, they owned the entire enterprise, pulling in $118 million a year in profits. They’re easily the wealthiest family in the world, and they’ve used their money to invest in lots of tech companies like WeWork, Uber, Slack, and more. This is partly thanks to bin Salman, who wants to diversify Saudi Arabia’s economy so it’s not so reliant on oil wealth. But because they bankroll so many companies – and countries – it’s hard for the global community to speak out against their less glamorous aspects.
For example, in 2017, bin Salman rounded up every government official or potential rival in his country and held them in a Ritz-Carlton hotel for weeks on what they called corruption charges. In order to leave, his hostages had to pay up, in what was essentially a giant shakedown. It’s alleged that he also had the Lebanese Prime Minister abducted for days or even weeks, physically mistreating him and psychologically torturing him. And finally, the world was shaken when journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi consulate in Turkey. While bin Salman denies being involved, the CIA and the UN believe he directly ordered the killing.
That’s not all – the country’s involvement in some of the worst acts of international terrorism, and in human rights abuses toward their own people, should disgust the rest of the world, but instead, we’re all strangely forgiving. Find out more about the history of Saudi Arabia, as well as Mohammed bin Salman and his vision for the future, on this episode of Who Is.
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