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Saudi Arabia's Royal Drama Kicked Up To 11, So Here It Is Broken Down With "Star Wars" GIFs

Dozens of arrests, a country under total blockade, and no vision of what will come next — all a short time ago, in a region not so far away.

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To understand this drama, we have to go way back. King Abdulaziz Al Saud, the first king of Saudi Arabia, left everything to his sons when he died in 1953, and since then the crown has passed among them.


Even as they got super old, the line kept passing from brother to brother, leading to older and older kings.


In June, King Salman — who is 81 and took office in 2015, after his very conservative half-brother, Abdullah, died — shook things up, giving the man who was crown prince the boot and naming his son to the position instead.


The drama that ensued was more than the kingdom had seen in generations, with Interior Minister Mohammed bin Nayef removed from both his cabinet post and the title of heir apparent handed off to Mohammed bin Salman.

Mohammed bin Salman, or MbS as he’s known, is only 32 — a full-on millennial. But don’t underestimate him — he’s been setting aggressive policy in the region for years now.


As defense minister, he pushed a hardline against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, forming a coalition that has been bombing the country since 2015, and generally trying to counter Iran's influence.

Five months after MbS became Crown Prince, there were still rumblings of discontent about the succession shuffle — which leads us to fast-forward to Saturday, when things went bonkers in the region.

Saudi Arabia is one of the few absolute monarchies left in the world. This weekend, King Salman used his power to issue a decree setting up a powerful new anti-corruption agency. And — surprise, surprise — it’s headed by MbS.


Dozens of members of the royal family and top businessmen in the Kingdom were rounded up under the new law, a move the Saudi government described as being a way to root out corruption.


But people who keep a close eye on the palace intrigue in Saudi Arabia aren’t so sure that’s the case.

Most observers are pretty sure the move is about consolidating the hold on power that MbS will have once he becomes king after Salman passes away or abdicates — something some predict could come before the year is out.


That has some worried about just what that will mean for Saudi Arabia regionally, as MbS has already gotten a bit of a reputation for being reckless.

Their treatment so far isn’t bad — many of them are reportedly being held in the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton Hotel, which has been compared to a palace in its own right.

Disney/Lucasfilm / Via

But even a very swanky house arrest is still a house arrest. And under the authority of Salman’s decree, their assets have been frozen — including their massive bank accounts.

As if that wasn't enough, earlier in the day, the prime minister of Lebanon resigned while visiting Saudi Arabia.


Now-former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s sudden retirement has been seen as part of Saudi Arabia's pushback against Iran’s influence in Lebanon. The reasoning he gave in his speech announcing that he would step down mirrored Saudi talking points.

And a missile fired from inside Yemen landed near the Saudi capital’s airport, prompting the Saudi-led coalition to announce a blockade of Yemen’s air, land, and sea borders.


The kingdom initially said it blamed Iran for the missile launch, saying it could be considered an "act of war." On Monday, the Saudi foreign minister instead said that the missile had been launched by Hezbollah — which operates both as a militia on the US and EU's list of terrorist groups and a political party in Lebanon with ties to Iran.

It's all been a lot for the region to process and as of Monday, it's still unclear what will happen to the imprisoned royals or how long the blockade will last.


The one thing that has been made clear: Crown Prince MbS isn't going anywhere as the main power inside Saudi Arabia — and when it comes to Saudi Arabia's future, it's going to be his way or nothing.


Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned on Saturday. A previous version of this post said Rafik Hariri, Saad's father and a former prime minister himself, had resigned instead.

Hayes Brown is a world news editor and reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

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