A lost year in Saudi Arabia

THE YEAR had got off to a good start for Saudi Arabia. After a sluggish stretch the non-oil economy was growing, and officials were eager to lure new investment. The war in neighbouring Yemen seemed to be winding down. The world had largely moved on from the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist dismembered by Saudi agents in 2018. And the kingdom was set to host the G20 summit in November.

Lately, though, things have not gone to plan. Muhammad bin Salman, the crown prince and de facto ruler, locked up several princes and scores of civil servants in March. Then he started an oil-price war that sent crude to its lowest level since 2003. The plunge upset not only Russia, its target, but also friends from Abu Dhabi to Washington. And now covid-19 has frozen the Saudi economy and left it with lakes of unwanted oil. Far from being a year to charm diplomats and woo investors, 2020 may leave the kingdom in a deeper economic and diplomatic hole.

In different times the arrest last month of Prince Ahmed, the last living full brother of King Salman, might have been bigger news. The police also rounded up Muhammad bin Nayef, a former heir apparent, and dozens of state employees. Saudis close to the royal court accused the detainees of scheming against the crown prince. Yet there is no evidence of any plot. Indeed, some of the...

Read More