US President Donald Trump expressed "great confidence" in the Saudi Arabian regime that has been accused of conducting a purge of political rivals by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as he eyes an eventual ascension to the throne.
Trump wrote on Twitter that the crown prince and King Salman "know exactly what they are doing".
The President accused those who have been detained since Sunday in a sweeping series of arrests of "milking their country for years." His full statement was: "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!" Saudi authorities swept up some of the most powerful and recognisable names in the country, including members of the Saudi royal family, Cabinet ministers, titans of media and industry, and former officials. The campaign has been cast as an effort to root out deep-seated corruption in the Middle East nation, but critics have called it a ruthless effort by Mohammed bin Salman to consolidate power ahead of the king's death or abdication of power.
The crown prince visited Trump at the White House in March in a meeting a Saudi official called a "turning point" in bilateral relations as the two shared similar views over Iran's destabilising behaviour in the region. Trump has been sharply critical of Iran. He was treated to a lavish reception during a visit to Riyadh in May.
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Trump issued his tweets shortly before leaving Tokyo for a short flight to Seoul for the third leg of a 12-day trip.
Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy, and Trump's bid to establish closer relations in an effort to fight terrorism could provide crucial political support for the regime to avoid broader repercussions of abuses of power. Analysts said the detentions were part of an intensifying drive to centralise power under the crown prince.Washington Post