Saudi Crown Prince Plans to Become King before Nov. G20 Summit: Sources
- March, 09, 2020 - 09:48
- World news
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched a purge against his chief royal rival, his uncle Prince Ahmed bin Abdelaziz, because he intends to become king before the G20 summit in Riyadh in November, a report said.
Bin Salman, known as MBS, will not wait for his father King Salman to die because his father's presence gives legitimacy to the son, and he wants to use the summit in November as the stage for his accession to the throne, sources briefed about the plans told the Middle East Eye.
Instead, MBS will force his father, who suffers from dementia but is in otherwise good health, to abdicate, the sources said.
This will finish the job started when MBS ousted his elder cousin Prince Mohammed bin Nayef from the position of the crown prince, the sources said.
"He wants to be sure while his father is there, he becomes the king,” one source said. Over the weekend pictures were released of King Salman greeting ambassadors, to disprove rumors sparked by the purge that the king had died. Sources at the King Faisal Hospital dedicated to the care of members of the Royal Family also dispelled those rumors.
Before his arrest on Friday, Prince Ahmed, the king's younger full brother, was given one last chance, after years of public opposition, to come aboard the MBS project, and he refused, the sources said.
"There was pressure on Ahmed to give his full support to MBS. He met with the king, and Salman and others in the court used polite words to encourage him to back his son," a second source said.
"Ahmed made it clear he would not support this project. He did not give his word. Ahmed told the king he himself was not keen to become king but would look to others to come forward."
Meanwhile, more details emerged about the circumstances of Ahmed's arrest.
According to the sources, Ahmed was not planning a coup before his arrest on Friday morning, as was claimed in one briefing given to Reuters, primarily because the prince had no power to make such a move.
"Prince Ahmed would have openly objected to his nephew's accession, as a member of the Allegiance Council, if the king dies and the question of accession to the throne comes formally before it," the source said.
"He would have clearly said no. But there was no attempted coup."
The Allegiance Council, or Beya, is the body which still nominally has to approve MBS's accession to the throne.
The source said Ahmed had just returned from a falconry hunting trip abroad and had given a reception for his close circle on Thursday night.
Ahmed was passed a message that the king wanted to see him on Friday morning. This was about another arrested prince, Faisal bin Abdelrahman, whose case Ahmed had raised with Salman some weeks ago.
On Friday morning, Prince Ahmed went to the royal palace with his security detail. He was arrested the moment he entered the king's compound.
"He did not see the king. It was total betrayal," the source said. According to him, a second member of the Allegiance Council was also arrested in the purge.
Asked why this purge was launched now, the sources cited external and internal reasons.
They said MBS was becoming concerned about the possibility that Donald Trump would not secure a second term of office as US president.
All the presidential candidates remaining in the Democratic race were declared critics of the crown prince and had openly condemned him for ordering the murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul in 2018.
Trump and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have consistently refused to hold the crown prince accountable for the murder of Khashoggi and blocked calls for a criminal investigation by the FBI or the UN.
In his last interview on the subject published in June last year, Trump said the Khashoggi murder "really didn't come up" in the discussions he held with MBS.
"They spend $400bn to $450bn over a period of time, all money, all jobs, buying equipment," Trump said.
"And by the way, if they don't do business with us, you know what they do? They'll do business with the Russians or with the Chinese."
Secondly, the sources claimed that the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed, known as MBZ, who has mentored MBS and introduced him to the Trump clan before he became president, was also in on the scheme.
Hamed al Mazroui, a well-known blogger with links to MBZ, whose tweets were among the first to break the news of the purge in the Ritz Carlton in November 2017 and the 2017 start to the siege of Qatar by Saudi Arabia and others, tweeted two words in Arabic before the latest arrests were widely known. They translate as "Checkmate".
"MbZ is instrumental in each move his protege makes. The more mistakes MbS makes and the greater the instability he causes, the greater the leverage bin Zayed has over the affairs of Saudi," the source said.
Internally, MBS's reforms are not going well.
The two latest hitches to his reform plan are the rapid fall in the price of oil, to below the level at which the state budget needs for its income, and his increasing unpopularity in the Muslim world, months before the annual Hajj is due to start.
Held back by curbs on oil output negotiated by Opec, Saudi's economy expanded just 0.3 percent in 2019, down from 2.4 percent a year earlier and short of the government's forecast of 0.4 percent.
MBS's economic woes deepened on Sunday, when the Saudi stock market dived by 8.3 percent, the lowest closing since November 2017, when he launched the first round of purges.
Shares in Saudi Aramco dropped below their IPO price of 32 riyals ($8.50) for the first time, losing 9.1 percent to 30 riyals.
Controversy has also stalked MBS's decision to effectively close the borders of the kingdom to most visitors and all Umrah pilgrims, because of the coronavirus epidemic.
All these factors, sources say, convinced MBS to strike now against the last remaining hurdles in the way of his accession to the throne.
"This purge is different from the first one in 2017 . Then, Mbs was at the height of his popularity as a young and bold reformer. He sold the purge as an anti-corruption campaign, and it was popular even with journalists like Khashoggi. This purge comes after a series of scandals. Its as if MBS is trying to evade one scandal by moving on to an even bigger one.” another high placed Saudi critic said.