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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A U.S. Navy aircraft with 11 passengers and crew crashed into the Philippine Sea on Wednesday on its return to the USS Ronald Reagan, according to the Navy's 7th Fleet.

The crash, which took place southeast of Okinawa, Japan, happened at 2:45 p.m. local time, which is 12:45 a.m. ET.

The USS Ronald Reagan is conducting search and rescue operations, the Navy said. Conditions of the 11 passengers is not known.

The cause of the crash is also unknown.

The USS Ronald Reagan is currently operating in the Philippine Sea. It is one of three carriers currently operating in the area, along with the USS Nimitz and USS Theodore Roosevelt. They took part in a military exercise a little over a week ago as a show of strength toward North Korea.

The accident is the latest in a series of disasters in 2017 for the 7th Fleet, which is stationed in Japan. In January, the USS Antietam ran aground off the coast of Japan, damaging its propellers and spilling oil into the water. The USS Lake Champlain collided with South Korean fishing boat on May 9.

Seven U.S. sailors were killed when the USS Fitzgerald collided with a Philippine-flagged container ship in the middle of the night off the coast of Yokosuuka on June 17.

And the deadliest accident came on Aug. 21, when 10 U.S. sailors were killed when the USS John S. McCain collided with commercial vessel Alnic MC in waters east of Singapore, according to the Navy.

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Argentine Navy(BUENOS AIRES, Argentina) -- The search for a missing Argentine submarine is entering the "critical" stage, the country's navy said Tuesday.

The ARA San Juan, which is carrying 44 crew members on board, was last heard from last Wednesday. Searchers continued Tuesday to search an area of over 186,000 square miles in the Atlantic Ocean off Argentina where it is thought the San Juan vanished.

Assuming the ship surface before its last-known communication last Wednesday, tomorrow would mark its seventh day underwater and oxygen will soon be running out, an Argentine navy spokesperson said Tuesday.

Weather conditions have been rough in the region, hampering the search. Conditions are expected to improve Wednesday and be excellent for searching. But the window of good weather is narrow: Conditions will again worsen on Thursday.

Four thousand people from seven countries are working around the clock on the search efforts, the navy said.

The submarine went missing while traveling from a base in Ushia, Argentina, on South America’s southern tip, to its home base of Mar del Plata, farther north. It was last heard from about 275 miles off the San Jorge Gulf in southern Argentina, according to the navy.

In Mar del Plata, relatives of the missing sailors congregated and waited for updates on Monday.
Twice, Argentine navy officials have dashed hopes some sign of life may had come from the vessel -- once on Saturday, and then again on Tuesday.

A brother of a machinist on the submarine suddenly interrupted an interview with ABC News Tuesday to say he had to tend to the wife of the machinist, Fernando Mendoza.

"I have to run," said the brother, Carlos Mendoza, on Monday. "My sister-in-law just fainted in her room in the base."

Marcela Tagliapetra, a relative of another sailor aboard the submarine, said she felt despair.

“We are waiting for good news so we can have something to celebrate,” she told ABC News Monday. “We are going to get it. We are sure that we are going to get it.”

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iStock/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- Mobile gangs using mostly stolen mopeds and scooters have been terrorizing London, committing robberies and attacks on people walking along city streets, police say.

London’s Metropolitan police say that up to 50,000 crimes have been committed a year by mobs on these vehicles; about 1,500 mopeds or scooters are stolen and 2,500 thefts carried out on them every month.

The two-wheeled vehicles are agile and enable criminals to easily smash and grab items from victims. Many times, they mount sidewalks to grab items from pedestrians, then make quick getaways.

Police say the crimes are two-fold: Scooters are stolen and then used to commit crimes. The vehicles are often stolen from areas of Outer London and used to commit robberies in the affluent Central London neighborhoods.

The dangers posed by these gangs coming in close contact with the public has made it difficult for the police to chase them.”

The police said they are employing new tactics to defeat this latest crime wave. They include using remote control spikes, DNA-tagging sprays and slimmer police motorcycles.

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Getty Images/Chris Jackson(LONDON) -- Meghan Markle has arrived in London to spend time with Prince Harry after finishing shooting on her television show "Suits."

The actress, 36, was spotted shopping in London’s Chelsea neighborhood on Tuesday.

Markle has joined Harry in his two-bedroom home at Nottingham Cottage located just behind Prince William and Princess Kate's apartment in Kensington Palace.

Now that Markle has completed her acting commitment to the TV series, it is expected she will move in with Harry full-time and leave Toronto, the city that has been her home base.

The couple is expected to spend the Thanksgiving holiday together as they begin the next chapter of their relationship.

Markle's arrival ahead of the holidays has sparked speculation that an engagement announcement is imminent.

In September, Markle made her first official appearance alongside Prince Harry attending the wheelchair tennis match at the Invictus Games, the Paralympic competition for wounded service members that was founded by Harry in 2014. Several days later, Markle’s mother joined the couple in a luxury box for the the Invictus Games closing ceremony in Toronto.

Royal watchers point to the inclusion of Markle’s mother at such a high-profile event as a sign that an engagement was no longer a matter of if but when.

Markle first publicly declared her love for Harry when she appeared on the October issue of Vanity Fair magazine.

"I can tell you that at the end of the day, I think it's really simple," Markle told the magazine. "We're two people who are really happy and in love."

ABC News' royal contributor Victoria Murphy said the article "shows the strength" of Harry's and Markle's relationship.

"She would have had permission from Kensington Palace to give the [Vanity Fair] interview," Murphy said. "It definitely shows the strength of their relationship and her confidence in their love."

In August, the couple traveled to Africa together on a three-week holiday to celebrate Markle's 36th birthday in Botswana before a romantic visit to Victoria Falls.

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(BANGALORE, India) -- iStock/ThinkstockThe Indian Army said this week that 58 of its personnel had crammed onto a single, moving motorcycle in an attempt to break the world record.

The stunt took place in the suburb of Bangalore, India, and the men were dressed in the colors of the Indian flag.

The riders, who are members of a team called the Tornadoes, performed the feat at the Yelahanka Air Force Station, according to Indian network NDTV.

They have performed worldwide for decades, and in 2010 put 56 men on a moving motorcycle, according to NDTV.

Their attempt on Sunday turned out to be a success.


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Sean Gallup/Getty Images(BERLIN) -- Months after being hailed by media as the new leader of the free world, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is facing the greatest political crisis of her 12 years in office. The breakdown of coalition talks leaves the country in a state of uncertainty, which many fear could provide an opening for the far right.

Weeks of preliminary discussions about building a coalition of several political parties in Germany collapsed on Sunday night. The breakdown came after the head of the free-market liberal FDP left the talks, citing a lack of trust among the parties.

"We believed we were on a path where we could have reached an agreement," Merkel said addressing the press with her trademark cool composure.

She said she regretted the breakdown of the talks and pledged to lead the country through "a difficult time."

The parties involved — Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), its Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Green Party and the Free Democrats (FDP) — had high hopes for what they referred to as the Jamaica coalition, named for the parties’ colors, which match the Jamaican flag’s.

The failure signals a rocky path ahead for Merkel while raising the possibility that new elections will be held in 2018, in which the far right could make further gains.

What went wrong?

Considering their disparate policy positions, the coalition had formidable challenges to find common ground. The parties diverge significantly on energy and immigration policy and missed several self-imposed deadlines to reach agreements during discussions.

"It is better not to govern than to govern falsely," the head of the FDP, Christian Lindner, told reporters after leaving the negotiating table shortly before midnight on Sunday. In a statement released by his party, he cited irreconcilable differences and a lack of trust among the parties.

Lindner has already come under fire for what some critics are calling an ego-driven decision. Green Party lawmaker Reinhard Butikofer tweeted that Lindner "has chosen his own brand of populist agitation over political responsibility."

The options for Merkel now

Merkel's conservative block can choose to continue talks with the Greens to form a minority coalition, which she would lead.

Alternatively, Merkel could also attempt to court the second-biggest party, the SPD, to form a second consecutive grand coalition. However, the SPD is still reeling from unexpected losses in September's federal elections, and its acting head, Martin Schultz, reiterated on Sunday night that the party's role in the parliament will most certainly be in the opposition.

If coalition negotiations fail, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier may set in motion a complicated process to dissolve the current parliament and call fresh elections in 2018, with Merkel acting as interim chancellor.

Concerns about new elections

During a press conference after meeting with Merkel on Monday morning, Steinmeier seemed to downplay the possibility of holding new elections. Instead, he reminded parties of their responsibility to form a government, saying he expected "all parties to be ready to enter discussions." He called on his party, the SPD, to take one for Team Germany, as well as the CDU, CSU, Greens and FDP.

But there was one party that Steinmeier did not include in his call to action: the far-right populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party. AfD is the first far-right party to enter government since the Nazi era, and all the other parties have pledged not to govern with it.

To the shock of many, AfD won 12.6 percent of the vote in September, making it the third-largest party in the new parliament. It won 27 percent of the vote in Saxony, making it the most popular party in the state.

Many are concerned that voters may be more skeptical of the establishment after these failed coalition negotiations, which could result in more votes for AfD.

Merkel told German broadcaster ARD on Monday that she was very "skeptical" about ruling with a minority government and said she would stand as a candidate again in 2018 if elections take place.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A U.S. airstrike inside Somalia killed "more than 100" al-Shabaab militants on Tuesday, the U.S. military said.

The strike occurred at approximately 10:30 a.m. local time 125 miles northwest of the country's capital of Mogadishu.

"Al-Shabaab has pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda and is dedicated to providing safe haven for terrorist attacks throughout the world," U.S. Africa Command said in a press release on Tuesday. "Al-Shabaab has publicly committed to planning and conducting attacks against the U.S. and our partners in the region. U.S. forces will continue to use all authorized and appropriate measures to protect Americans and to disable terrorist threats."

The strike is the 29th by the U.S. inside Somalia this year. Seven of those strikes occurred in the last thirteen days alone, a noticeable uptick in the pace of attacks against mainly al-Shabaab and some ISIS militants.

"So there's no particular rhythm to it, except that as [targets] become available and as we're able to process them and vet them, we strike," Joint Staff Director Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie told reporters last week. "... I do not believe necessarily there's a ramp up. It's the density of targets is such that now there's some opportunities to do those strikes."

McKenzie said he was not comfortable drawing a link between the increased number of targets in Somalia with the desertion of ISIS fighters from Raqqa, Syria, which was reclaimed by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces last month.

"We strike targets as they become available," McKenzie said. "Some of those targets had been -- we'd been working them for a long time. I'm not prepared to say it's linked to the fall of Raqqa. I'm just not prepared to make that linkage."

According to the Pentagon, there are approximately 500 U.S. troops in Somalia, up from 50 in the beginning of the year.

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Jack Taylor/Stringer/Getty Images(HARARE, Zimbabwe) -- Robert Mugabe has resigned as the leader of Zimbabwe after more than 30 years in power, according to a statement read by the speaker of the country's parliament. The announcement was met with widespread cheers from lawmakers.

Mugabe's reported resignation comes amid heightened political tensions in the country.

Mugabe, 93, was placed under house arrest by the military several days ago.

Zimbabwe's military is believed to have taken charge of the country earlier this month.

The first signs of a military takeover emerged November 14th as armored vehicles were deployed near the capital, one week after Mugabe fired his deputy and longtime ally, Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, and accused him of scheming to take power, including through witchcraft.

The U.S. Embassy in Zimbabwe issued an advisory that same night, urging all employees to stay home the following day and warning American citizens in the southern African nation to shelter in place "as a result of the ongoing political uncertainty."

Zimbabwe's army addressed the country on state-run media on November 15th, vehemently denying speculation this was a coup d'etat and assuring citizens the president and his family are "safe and sound."

Two days after that, on November 17th, Mugabe made his first public appearance since the alleged house arrest. He delivered a speech at a university graduation ceremony in the country's capital, Harare.

Mugabe's resignation marks a major turning point in Zimbabwe's history. He became the country's first prime minister in 1980 following the end of British colonial rule over the country, which was formerly known as Rhodesia. Mugabe then became president in 1987 and had ruled the country since then.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Additional remains of U.S. soldier Sergeant La David Johnson were found on November 12 at the site in Niger where his body was recovered, a U.S. official confirmed to ABC News.

Johnson and three other U.S. Army soldiers were killed when their convoy of U.S. and Nigerien forces was ambushed leaving the village of Tongo Tongo on October 4.

Johnson's family has been notified of the new discovery, the official said.

Last month, Johnson’s widow told ABC News she was prevented from viewing her husband’s remains before he was laid to rest in his home state of Florida on Oct. 21.

"Why couldn't I see my husband? Every time I asked to see my husband, they wouldn't let me," Myeshia Johnson said in an October 23 interview with Good Morning America. “They told me that he’s in a severe wrap - like I won’t be able to see him. I need to see him so I will know that that is my husband.”

She added, "They won't show me a finger, a hand. I know my husband's body from head to toe, and they won't let me see anything. I don't know what's in that box. It could be empty for all I know, but I need to see my husband. I haven't seen him since he came home."

A joint team of U.S. Africa Command and Niger military investigators visited the site of the ambush on November 12 as part of its investigation, which the U.S. Army expects to conclude in January.

"As part of its mission, the AFRICOM investigation team interviewed local villagers; conducted a physical examination of multiple areas of interest related to the attack; and retraced actions leading up to, during and after this ambush," U.S. Africa Command said in a press release.

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JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK ) -- Syrian President Bashar Assad met with his Russian President Vladimir Putin in the southern Russian city of Sochi on Monday evening as a part of a "working visit," the Kremlin said in a statement.

Assad reportedly thanked Putin for "the efforts that Russia made to save our country," according to an English translation of the statement.

"Two years ago, when I met with President Putin in Moscow, the fighting was just beginning. During these two years, the successes that have been achieved thanks to the assistance of the Air and Space Forces of the Russian Federation and the Syrian army are evident," Assad said, according to a readout of the meeting. "Now no one can deny these successes in the fight against terrorism. And thanks to your actions, as well as the actions of the Syrian army, our allies, many Syrians were able to return to their homes."

"We count on Russia's support to ensure that external actors do not interfere in the political process and that from the outside they only support the process that the Syrians themselves will lead," he added.

Putin also introduced Assad to senior officials of the country's Defense Ministry and the general staff, people who he said "played a decisive role in saving Syria," according to the Kremlin's statement.

"Much has been done to stabilize the situation in Syria. I hope that in the very near future we will put the final point in the fight against terrorism in Syria, although it is clear that the centers will still exist, they will still emerge," Putin said. "So there are still problems with terrorism in the world, and in the Middle East, and in Syria in particular."

"But the main task is already close to completion, and it will be possible to say in the very near future that we have solved it," he added.

Putin said he planned to follow up the meeting with telephone calls to President Donald Trump, and to Middle Eastern leaders including the Emir of Qatar.

The two leaders last met on Oct. 20, 2015 in Moscow after Russia launched a military operation against Syrian insurgents and ISIS.

The conflict in Syria began in 2011 after the government cracked down violently on mostly peaceful protests against Assad's rule. The protests developed into an armed uprising and a civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions.

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Argentine Navy(NEW YORK) -- Argentina’s navy said late Monday that noises heard by two ships off the coast of Argentina were not from a submarine missing since last week, dashing the hopes of relatives of the 44 crew members on board.

Argentine ships looking for the ARA San Juan, an Argentine vessel last heard from on Wednesday, had picked up fairly persistent noises that were believed to have originated in an area about 225 miles east of Argentina’s Valdes Peninsula, in water believed with be about 650 feet deep, naval spokesman Enrique Balbi told reporters in Buenos Aires earlier Monday.

Balbi said searchers focused on that area as the navy worked to determine if the sounds came from the sub.

It was the second time on Monday that Argentine navy officials dashed hopes some sign of life may had come from the vessel.

The navy said Saturday it was investigating whether seven satellite signals heard that day were from the submarine, but on Monday it said it had been determined that the signals were not from the vessel.

The navy also said Monday the commander of the missing sub had reported that it was having trouble with its batteries and was experiencing an “electrical fault.”

The commander reported the issues in a satellite communication Wednesday morning, according to information from the U.S.-based satellite communications company Iridium, naval officials said.

Wednesday was the last day the San Juan made contact, officials said.

Searchers continued Monday to search an area of over 186,000 square miles in the Atlantic Ocean off Argentina where it is thought the San Juan vanished.

The submarine went missing while traveling from a base in Ushia, Argentina, on South America’s southern tip, to its home base of Mar del Plata, farther north. It was last heard from about 275 miles off the San Jorge Gulf in southern Argentina, according to the navy.

High winds and waves reaching 20 to 26 feet high hampered search efforts over the weekend and were expected to continue to pose a problem until at least Tuesday, Argentine officials said.

The Argentine navy released video showing intense waves slamming against a ship participating in the search on Sunday.

In Mar del Plata, relatives of the missing sailors congregated and waited for updates.

The false hope from Saturday’s satellite signals and the ensuing letdown on Monday have been emotionally wrenching for some family members.

A brother of a machinist on the submarine suddenly interrupted an interview with ABC News on Monday to say he had to tend to the wife of the machinist, Fernando Mendoza.

"I have to run," said the brother, Carlos Mendoza. "My sister-in-law just fainted in her room in the base."

Marcela Tagliapetra, a relative of another sailor aboard the submarine, said she felt despair.

“We are waiting for good news so we can have something to celebrate,” she told ABC News. “We are going to get it. We are sure that we are going to get it.”

Among those aboard the missing vessel is Argentina’s first female submarine officer, Eliana Maria Krawczyk.

Several nations have sent airplanes and ships to help Argentina with the search, including the U.S., which has provided several planes and unmanned underwater vehicles for the effort.

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iStock/Thinkstock(HARARE, Zimbabwe) -- Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwean President, who at 93 is the world’s oldest head of state, is not planning on giving up his 37-year rule anytime soon.

He ignored a noon deadline Monday to resign or face impeachment proceedings. The army, which took de facto control of the country last Wednesday, has him under house arrest and he has been fired by his own party, the Zanu PF. All but his most loyal supporters have deserted him, but he continues to insist he has the solutions to the issues faced by his country.

“The country is at a crossroads,” Dr. Bright Matonga, a former government spokesperson, told ABC News. “People feel that President Mugabe is holding the country to ransom. He is refusing to stand down.”

Mugabe was put under house arrest last Wednesday after a bloodless takeover of power by the military. He was expected to resign during a TV address to the nation conducted in front of a phalanx of dour-faced Army generals, the very same group who had been holding him for days, but he apparently didn’t follow the script. Instead, he made a long speech in which he acknowledged that the country had problems, but made clear he still saw himself in control.

“Whatever the pros and cons of the way they went about registering those concerns, I as the President of Zimbabwe and as the commander-in-chief do acknowledge the issues they have drawn my attention to and do believe that these were raised in the spirit of honesty and out of a deep and patriotic concern for the stability of our nation” President Robert Mugabe in TV address to nation.

Mugabe held control for 37 years, despite an almost complete economic collapse. He has been the country’s only leader since independence in 1980, widely known as a ruthless dictator since he took power along with his Zanu PF party. He has been known for alleged brutal crackdowns on the opposition, cronyism and corruption. In one of his most recent scandals, he is said to have tried to fire his vice president in a move toward installing his wife, Grace, in the role.

Observers in the country’s general elections agreed he and his party lost previously, but he continued to stay in power. In his speech last week, he continued to say he was in control.

“The [Zanu-PF] congress is due in a few weeks from now,” Mugabe continued. “I’ll preside over its process which must not be prepossessed by any acts calculated to undermine it or to compromise the outcomes in the eyes of the public.”

The army took control of the country last Wednesday, which had all the appearance of a coup, but was a "democratic adjustment," according to the army, to deal with criminal elements amongst the people around Mugabe.

On Tuesday, Parliament will move to start the impeachment process. With a simple majority vote and the establishment of a nine-member cross party “investigative committee,” which will decide if the grounds for impeachment are met, the assembly could vote as soon as Wednesday.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Geologists in Iceland are warning that Öræfajökull volcano may be getting ready to erupt.

The volcano has been showing increased signs of activity, with a new half-mile caldera forming just last week, according to the Icelandic Meteorological Office. This comes on top of elevated seismic activity in the area in recent months.

The meteorological office issued a yellow alert for aviation on Friday, indicating the volcano should be closely watched.

“There is considerable uncertainty about how the situation will evolve,” the Met Office said today.

Öræfajökull, an ice-covered volcano located in Vatnajökull National Park in southeast Iceland, last erupted in 1727 and is the country's largest active volcano. Before that, the volcano erupted in 1362.

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Subscribe To This Feed -- President Donald Trump has announced his intent to again formally designate North Korea as a "state sponsor of terror", a move designed to ramp up pressure on the rogue nation's aggressive acts in the region and further development of its nuclear program.

The State Department's current list of "state sponsors of terror" includes Iran, Sudan and Syria and functions as a sort of sanctions "black list" against countries that the U.S. has deemed "repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism."

"In addition to threatening the world by nuclear devastation, North Korea has repeatedly supported acts of international terrorism, including assassinations on foreign soil," Trump said during a Cabinet meeting at the White House Monday. "This designation will impose further sanctions and penalties on North Korea and related persons, and supports our maximum pressure campaign to isolate the murderous regime."

North Korea was previously on the list for 20 years until 2008, when then-President George W. Bush removed the country in hopes it could jump start peace talks.

The Trump administration was under increasing pressure to add the country back to the list following North Korea's most recent nuclear test and the death of American Otto Warmbier upon his return to the U.S. in June.

Trump expressed anger over North Korea's treatment of Warmbier at the time, and evoked his memory Monday in announcing his decision.

"As we take this action today, our thoughts to turn to Otto Warmbier, a wonderful young man, and the countless others so brutally affected by the North Korean oppression," Trump said.

The president also said the Treasury Department would be announcing additional sanctions on Tuesday prior to his departure for Florida for Thanksgiving, but Trump did not provide any insight or details what the sanctions might consist of.

Speaking at the White House press briefing Monday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the move is not designed to signal to North Korea that diplomacy is off the table.

"We still hope for diplomacy, and this is -- the timing of this is just one of us concluding the process," Tillerson said. "This just continues to tighten the pressure on the Kim regime, all with an intention to have him understand this is only going to get worse until you are ready to come and talk."

This is a developing story. Please refresh for details.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Never has any leader in Saudi Arabia had so much power since Ibn Saud founded the country in 1932.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 32, has grabbed, consolidated and inherited much of the power over the kingdom, still officially ruled by his father, King Salman, 81.

Widely known by his initials, MBS, the young prince's critics call him a reckless hothead while his supporters say he is a bold, young leader.

He was promoted to crown prince last summer, leapfrogging over his older cousin, Mohammed bin Nayef, as the heir apparent.

His titles now include defense minister, deputy prime minister, chair of the Supreme Economic Council, head of a council overseeing the state-run oil giant Saudi Aramco, head of the Public Investment Fund and a pivotal member of the Council of Political and Security Affairs, among others.

He is the favorite son of King Salman, and before his swift ascension to power as the state's number two, he was the head of his father's royal court. Shortly after Salman became king in January 2015, MBS was appointed defense minister at just 29 years old.

Battling Iranian influence

Two months later, the young, untested defense minister sent Saudi forces into war in Yemen, ostensibly to counter Iranian influence in the region.

Speaking to The Economist last year in one of his rare interviews with Western press, MBS said "[The timing of the war] has nothing to do with the fact that I became minister. It has everything to do with what the Houthis did."

"I have surface-to-surface missiles right now on my borders," he added. "Is there any country in the world who would accept the fact that a militia with this kind of armament should be on their borders?"

Saudi forces, armed with American weapons, are fighting Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, but the cost is high and the Houthis maintain control over Yemen while millions starve. According to UNICEF, the humanitarian crisis in Yemen is dire.

“More than 20 million people, including over 11 million children, are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. At least 14.8 million are without basic health care and an outbreak of cholera has resulted in more than 900,000 suspected cases," UNICEF says.

When asked about the strategic goals in Yemen, MBS told The Economist, "All of our efforts are to push for the political solution. But this does not mean we will allow for the militia to expand on the ground, they must realize that every day they do not get closer to the political solution, they lose on the ground."

In his most recent television interview, on Saudi TV and Al Arabiya in May, MBS ruled out any dialogue with Iranian officials, saying Iran’s goal was “to control the Islamic world” and to spread its Shiite doctrine.

He added that in Saudi Arabia, "We know we are a main target of Iran."

Now, seven months since that interview, tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran are even higher following the kingdom's latest provocation and an ensuing crisis involving its longtime ally, Lebanon.

Two weeks ago, Saudi Arabia summoned Lebanon's Sunni Muslim prime minister, Saad Hariri, and forced him to resign publicly on Saudi television.

Hariri's fiery resignation statement blamed Iran for interfering in "the internal affairs of Arab countries." Hariri, also a Saudi citizen, has long been a weak leader of a Lebanon government partly controlled by the Iranian-backed Shiite militant group Hezbollah.

Shortly after his resignation, a rocket flew over the Saudi border from Yemen. “The involvement of Iran in supplying missiles to the Houthis is a direct military aggression by the Iranian regime,” the Saudi news agency SPA reported MBS as saying, “and may be considered an act of war against the kingdom.” Iran denies that it supports the Houthis.

Also as defense minister, MBS inked the latest multibillion dollar arms deal with the United States. And since January, he has become close to the Trump administration, notably, Trump's son-in-law and trusted advisor, Jared Kushner. Since President Trump took office, he has been clear that he favors a Saudi-led region, leaving the Islamic Republic of Iran out in the cold after President Obama spent years trying to normalize relations with Tehran through the 2015 nuclear deal.

Vision 2030

The kingdom felt shortchanged by the Obama administration, and on the heels of President Obama's final visit to Riyadh, MBS, then deputy crown prince, launched a Vision 2030 project and a National Transformation Plan. Together they comprise an ambitious economic and social reform package aimed at economic diversification, tax increases, planning for life after oil and opening up the strictly conservative kingdom to some social reform -- at least a little.

MBS's plan to list Saudi Aramco publicly, a company that up until now has been owned solely by the king of Saudi Arabia, got the business community talking and gaming out how the world's biggest IPO might unfold. He has said he is hopeful the public offering will happen in 2018 or 2019.

Much of his ambitious reforms target young Saudis, his peers.

More than half the population of Saudi Arabia is under 25 and 70 percent are under 35. MBS's plan is to create 1.2 million private-sector jobs by 2020 that could help employ these young people.

Reforms like lifting the driving ban for women, cutting back the powers of the religious police and allowing women into sports stadiums are small steps toward a more inclusive, modern society. MBS has also brought back movie screenings and concerts which were banned for much of the last two decades.

With each move, he is upending basic tenets that have ruled the kingdom for the last 85 years, and his critics say it's all happening too abruptly.

Paving his way to the throne

Two weeks ago, MBS ordered more than 200 businessmen, princes and even cabinet ministers under King Salman rounded up and detained. It was all done in his father's name and billed as an anti-corruption crackdown.

Critics cried foul, calling the arrests a "purge" and a stamping out of potential political challengers before MBS ascends to the throne, President Donald Trump weighed in, supporting his young ally.

Those detained were taken to Riyadh's luxurious Ritz Carlton, where they have reportedly been held for the last two weeks. Apparently, the slightly less luxurious Marriott across the road has also been commandeered for detentions.

Among those being held are two of MBS's most prominent cousins, including Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, who ran the powerful National Guard until earlier this month, and Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who is perhaps Saudi's most famous billionaire.

MBS is largely seen as free of corruption, unlike many of his contemporaries, but the royal family and its patrons have historically operated above the law.

Faisal Abbas, the Saudi editor-in-chief of the daily Arab News, wrote last week that the kingdom is “damned if it acts against corruption, damned if it doesn’t.”

“More importantly, it is just mind-boggling that very few are noticing the obvious; which is that all of those being detained are incredibly wealthy,” Abbas added.

The Associated Press reported that investigators say they've already discovered at least $100 billion in funds allegedly linked to corruption and that the figure could rise.

"[The arrests do] not represent the start, but the completion of phase one of our anti-corruption push,” said Attorney General Sheikh Saud Al Mojeb, according to Reuters.

Analysts say the real test will be if the recent sweep truly changes the rules, or merely sends a signal, albeit a loud one, to the old guard as the ambitious prince clears his way to the throne.

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