In November this year, the news of the anti-corruption drive in Saudi Arabia which led to the arrest of several prominent members of the political and business elite, surprised many. And in late December the news broke of the sentencing of the former vice-president of Iran, Hamid Baghaei for the misuse of public funds while in office. Baghaei received a sentence of 63 years, which is the longest sentence an official has received in Iran in many decades. Does this indicate a new resolve in the Middle East to prosecute corruption? At first blush this might look like the beginning of a wider attempt to clean up corruption in the region, but this would be an overstatement. There seems to be consensus among commentators that the arrests in Saudi Arabia were politically motivated — an attempt by Prime Minister Mohammad bin Salman to tighten his grip on all branches of government and to destroy all networks likely to oppose his power. The arrests of members of the business elite signals to...

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