As evidenced by the Saudi women being granted the right to drive this summer, the wide reaching reforms of 32 year old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman are forever altering the highly conservative and traditional kingdom. His policies have also sought to encourage tourism, to reduce the authority of the mutawaeen, the religious police, and to open the nation's first public theaters, where, to surprise of many, men and women were allowed to sit together.
But along with the Crown Prince's historic openings, have come increased arrests of political dissenters, including many women who had peacefully protested for the right to drive. Last year, about 200 of the kingdom's wealthiest and most powerful individuals, including many members of the royal family, were locked up in the '5-Star Prison' at the Ritz-Carlton hotel and forced to turn over billions to the government as part of an anti-corruption campaign. And in his role as as Minister of Defense, he has worked to strengthen the military and in 2015 launched Saudi Arabia's large and controversial military campaign into war torn Yemen.
Are Mohammed bin Salman's reforms largely being enacted to modernize the nation or as a method to consolidate his power and weaken those who might challenge his authority? Or are they being carried out in light of the understanding that the kingdom must reduce its massive overdependence on oil, diversify its economy and bring more women into the workforce? What are the implications of these reforms for Saudi Arabia, the broader Middle East and relations with the U.S.? Former U.S. Ambassador Robert Jordan, Dina Alsowayel, and Greg Gause will join us as panelists to discuss these topics. [Organizer's description]