President Donald Trump declared support on Monday evening for a large-scale anti-corruption crackdown taking place in Saudi Arabia.
Seventeen royal princes and 38 high-level ministers have been arrested since Saturday in a sweeping purge by a recently-formed anti-corruption committee led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, according to a list obtained by CNN. Two princes have also been killed: one in a helicopter crash, and another during an attempted arrest.
Trump wrote on Twitter on Nov. 6 “I have great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, they know exactly what they are doing…. Some of those they are harshly treating have been “milking” their country for years!”
….Some of those they are harshly treating have been “milking” their country for years!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 6, 2017
The arrests began shortly after Trump sent a Twitter message on Nov. 4 indicating that the United States will open the door for Saudi Arabia to cash in on its oil business on the lucrative New York Stock Exchange.
“Would very much appreciate Saudi Arabia doing their IPO of Aramco with the New York Stock Exchange,” Trump wrote on Saturday morning. “Important to the United States!”
The timing of the message and the arrests may not be accidental given the significance of Saudi Arabia to Trump’s foreign policy. The president’s first visit was to Saudi Arabia and he brought nearly his entire cabinet on the trip.
Trump’s speech in Saudi Arabia centered singularly on the eradication of radical Islamic terrorism. He said that the “path to peace begins” in Saudi Arabia and offered the heads of state in attendance a choice, affirming that the United States will support those who oppose the spread of terrorism.
“But the nations of the Middle East cannot wait for American power to crush this enemy for them,” Trump said. “The nations of the Middle East will have to decide what kind of future they want for themselves, for their countries, and for their children.”
“A better future is only possible if your nations drive out the terrorists and extremists. Drive. Them. Out,” the president said, adding (with emphasis taken from official speech transcript): “DRIVE THEM OUT of your places of worship. DRIVE THEM OUT of your communities. DRIVE THEM OUT of your holy land, and DRIVE THEM OUT OF THIS EARTH.”
Crown Prince Salman, whom Trump addressed in the Aramco tweet, is a young and reform-minded leader who showed that he is willing to address to problem of radical Islamic terrorism in exchange for peace and prosperity for his people. The crown prince and Trump opened the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology after Trump’s speech, signaling the prince’s support for the U.S. leader’s cause.
Saudi Arabia is considered one of the most prolific state sponsors of Islamic terrorism. Trump offered the crown prince a choice and, by all appearances, the prince decided to side with the United States. Trump’s message of support for the cause indicates that the two are on the same page.
The cleanup in Saudi Arabia also appears to be linked to Trump’s goal of “draining the swamp” in Washington. Millions of dollars worth of Saudi Arabian currency goes to non-profits, including the Clinton Foundation and The McCain Insitute, that are linked to top U.S. politicians
The Podesta Group, a Washington, D.C. lobbying firm, receives $140,000 a month from the Saudi government, Huffington Post reported. Tony and John Podesta founded the firm in 1988. John Podesta chaired Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016 while the firm received Saudi money.