Islam, Five Hundred Billion Dollars, Mohammed Bin Salman discussed on The Lawfare Podcast


And to the trump administration and about the white house response to kashoggi's murder. It's the law fair podcast episode. Five hundred twenty. Eight ben hubbard on s. S- actually want to start in the same place that you start the book which is with two events that happened in the fall of twenty seventeen for the most part it plays in the same hotel and on the one hand there's mba his so called davos in the desert and on the other hand there's this roundup of prominent saudis talk a bit about both of these and what they what you feel like they represent about mohammed bin salman's dual in stinks. Yeah i mean this was a really great point to kind of start the book because we really see these two tendencies in his personality. That that i think drove him throughout his rise really come into fruition and really become very clear for people the first is he hoped he this. Investment conference called the future investment initiative. And this thing is sort of vaulted in its ambition. He invites business people. Heads of state Investors billionaires millionaires from all over the world to come to rod any basically goes out of his way to convince them listen. We we know that you guys have preconceptions about saudi arabia. You may think it's kind of a strange place. You may think that we're stuck in the past that we follow the steer form of islam. You're wrong we're going new places. We're going to do amazing new things. We want to shake up the kingdom. And do all you know. He gives his very dramatic declaration about how we don't want to have anything to do with extremism. We're gonna crush extremism today. He'd gets a standing ovation. He announces kind of the headline projects. That he announces are these three mega cities that he plans to build in saudi arabia. One is an entertainment city. This going to have amusement parks and movie theaters and things like that that he wants to develop some islands in the red sea. Into kind of a fancy eco resort. And then the the sort of capstone is this thing called. Neil which is this massive sprawling city that he wants to build in the far north west of the country's kind of in this isolated somewhat barren area on the red sea and he says they wanna spend five hundred billion dollars on it. They wanna make it this sort of hub for innovation technology for business. They want to have it run. On solar energy they want to have robots to all the servicing and an incredible incredible ambition. For what this guy wants to do and you know. I think a lot of people are pretty impressed. I mean definitely you know. A lot of people were skeptical. That some of these things were gonna come about. But i think there was also a lot of enthusiasm. People were pretty used to a certain kind of saudi arabia. I think i became clear to people who attended the conference that this was going to be a very different kind of saudi arabia at this Young prince wanted to develop and then so everybody goes home and you know people are sort of thinking. Wow do i wanna put my money here. Do i want to get do. I want to invest in this place. What do we think about this guy. Is he for real. And then november two thousand seventeen a few weeks after the conference ends you have officials from the royal court and from the secret police. Suddenly round up hundreds of the kingdom's richest and most powerful people and the way this works that people started getting phone calls and they would get a call and say oh the king would like to see you or they would get a call this at the crown prince would like to see you. People would show up. They would be relieved of their cell phones if they had guards their guards would be dismissed their personal belongings would-be taking as if as if they were going to prison. And then they were taken to the ritz carlton which is in very very fancy hotel. They were checked into rooms told to leave the doors open and basically kept there. And then you know. Roy court officials eventually would come around for quote unquote negotiations. The government build this as a massive crackdown on corruption. Basically saying the kingdom has long had a problem with corruption. We're going to end. We're gonna get to the bottom to it. The people who are locked in the ritz are people who are accused of corruption. And we're gonna recuperate any gotten gains in so they have these quote unquote negotiators these people and in the process there's a huge amount of coercion including some physical violence against some of the detainees. And you know they wrap it up. In a few months and government announces that they had recuperated about one hundred and six billion dollars from These people who'd been locked in the hotel so you know if the first the investment conference had really been assigned that l. b. is hugely ambitious. And he wants to do things differently. Any wants the world to come to saudi arabia and be excited about saudi arabia. The message of the ritz was very much. I'm in charge. Nobody else stands above me and even the capital. That was once considered private capital is gonna come to my service. I'm gonna marshall it for the things that i wanted to saudi arabia and i might do that in ways. That don't necessarily respect the rule of law and that might even imply employ violence right and so before we get into more details of what. Nbs does as de facto rule. I wanna zoom way out for a second and saudi. Arabia is the monarchy controlled by a huge single family. But it's famously opaque you describe the inner workings of the family as sort of a black box. How does the hierarchy the royal hierarchy work in saudi arabia. More to the various roles that s occupied in his quick ascension while so in two thousand beginning in two thousand fifteen king abdullah the the previous monarch passes away and and son man who is nbs. his father becomes the nobody's really paying attention to 'em yes at this point but it's the first time that many of us hurt his name this. This includes journalists including myself who had been reporting on saudi arabia. It also includes diplomats. You know people in intelligence services who are sort of charged with researching the royal family and trying to identify young princes who are on the way up and who could become a movers and shakers in various ways and many of them nbs came across their radar. because he'd never really done anything all that significant his background he didn't have sort of shining. That would you know. Point amount is being somebody who could it will likely rise to great power in the kingdom but we start hearing his name. I think the first job that he got if i remember correctly while he was put in charge of the royal court so he sort of becomes the gatekeeper for his father..

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