From women drivers to Khashoggi: The Saudi crown prince’s tumultuous rule – Times of India

RIYADH: Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman was heralded by some in the West as a reformer when he became the de facto leader of the ultra-conservative country five years ago.
But the honeymoon ended abruptly after dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was brutally murdered in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate in 2018.
Here is a rundown of the key developments:
On June 21, 2017, King Salman names his then 31-year-old son, Mohammed, as crown prince, capping the meteoric rise of the ambitious defence minister.
It comes amid a major fallout with Qatar, which Riyadh accuses of supporting terrorism and being too close to Saudi Arabia’s arch-rival Iran.
In November 2017, around 380 royals, senior officials and business tycoons are arrested in a dramatic purge presented as an anti-corruption drive.
Many are held for weeks in the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Most are released after agreeing significant financial settlements.
In September 2017, the monarchy ends the world’s only ban on female drivers by announcing that they will be able to take the wheel from June 2018.
Cinemas are also reopened, music concerts are organised with mixed-gender audiences permitted, and women are allowed into sports stadiums.
The enthusiasm generated by the announcements is somewhat dampened by the repression of female activists who had campaigned for the right to drive.
In November 2017, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri announces in a televised address from Riyadh that he is resigning, citing Iran’s “grip” on his country.
Saudi Arabia is accused of forcing his hand to try to weaken the Iranian-backed Hezbollah movement that shares power in Lebanon.
Hariri spends two weeks in Riyadh amid speculation he is being kept under house arrest. After France intervenes he returns to Lebanon and calls off his resignation.
Riyadh enters the war in Yemen in 2015 at the head of an Arab coalition supporting the internationally recognised government against the Iran-backed Huthi rebels.
Saudi Arabia’s participation in the war escalates the conflict, which spreads to the entire country and produces what the United Nations calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
The coalition is denounced for air strikes, including on markets and hospitals, that cause heavy civilian casualties. The intervention fails to rout the rebels.
In March 2018, the prince embarks on his first foreign tour as heir, visiting Egypt and Britain, where he lunches with Queen Elizabeth II.
Prince Mohammed then spends more than two weeks in the United States, meeting President Donald Trump and visiting tech leaders in Silicon Valley. He also goes to France and Spain.
On October 2, 2018, Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is murdered and dismembered inside the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate, triggering global outcry.
Prince Mohammed denies ordering the killing. The government blames rogue security officials.
A Saudi court condemns five people to death over the killing but they are later given jail terms instead.
The affair turns the crown prince into a pariah in the West, with a UN rapporteur and the CIA both linking him to the killing.
Energy behemoth Saudi Aramco completes the world’s biggest initial public offering in December 2019.
The move is critical to Prince Mohammed’s ambitious strategy to overhaul the oil-reliant economy.
In April 2021, Prince Mohammed causes surprise by declaring that he wants to have “good relations” with Iran. The two arch-foes embark on talks in Iraq.
A fifth round of talks in April 2022, hailed by Iran as “positive and serious”, leads to speculation that the Islamic republic and the Sunni kingdom may resume diplomatic relations severed in 2016.
Yemen’s Huthi rebels and the Saudi-led coalition agree to a two-month ceasefire starting on April 2, 2022.
Yemen’s Saudi-backed President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi announces from Riyadh that he is handing power to a new leadership council that will negotiate with the Huthis on a lasting peace.
In June, the truce is renewed for another two months.
On June 14, the White House announces that US President Joe Biden will meet with the crown prince in Riyadh, signalling an end to attempts to ostracise him over Khashoggi’s death.

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