July 20, 2017
Moon of Alabama
Someone wanted the public to know that the new Saudi clown prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MbS) took up his new position by unceremoniously disposing his predecessor Mohammed bin Nayef (MbN) by force. The juicy details, true or not, were briefed to Reuters, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times on the same day:
As next in line to be king of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Nayef was unaccustomed to being told what to do. Then, one night in June, he was summoned to a palace in Mecca, held against his will and pressured for hours to give up his claim to the throne.
By dawn, he had given in, and Saudi Arabia woke to the news that it had a new crown prince: the king’s 31-year-old son, Mohammed bin Salman.
Bin Nayef was a darling of the CIA and his disposal was not welcome. It may well be that the author of the tale of his ouster has his office in Langley, Virginia.
We had correctly called the MbN removal a coup and predicted that “the old al-Saud family king [..] will be offed soon.” From the current Reuters piece:
Quoting a witness at the palace, one Saudi source said King Salman this month pre-recorded a statement in which he announces the transfer of the throne to his son. The announcement could be broadcast at any time, perhaps as soon as September.
We also wrote that “[m]any Arab peninsula citizens will want to see [the new clown prince’s] head on a pike.”
The details of how MbS deposed the previous crown prince MbN will enrage additional parts of Saudi Arabia’s population. Additional leaks about extensive MbS contacts with Israel will increase the bad feelings against him. This especially as Israeli is further encroaching on the al-Haram a-Sharif and the Al-Aqsa mosque on the (likely falsely) claimed Jewish temple mount.
MbS’ attempt to push Qatar around has, as predicted, failed. The four countries that had joined against Qatar could not agree to increase the pressure. The demands made to Qatar have now been retracted. This is a huge loss of face for MbS and his Emirati mentor Mohammad bin Zayed. The Saudi war against Yemen kills many civilians and costs billions of dollars but is militarily lost. The announced big economic reforms have made no progress. The Gulf Cooperation Council is defunct and may fall further apart.
Everything MbS has touched failed. His actions violate traditions and religious commandments. His coup has set an example that can now be used against himself. It would not be astonishing to see a revolt against Mohammed Bin Salman even before he is able to make himself king. The way he shifted MbN to the side broke all traditional rules. The example he set with the ouster of the former crown prince can now be used against himself.
UPDATE: Bin Salman is now consolidating all internal security organizations and functions under himself. The Interior Ministry, traditionally headed by the Nayef family branch, will be stripped of all significant powers. MbS is afraid. He knows that many forces, including the CIA, are now working against him. This attempt to coup-proof his rule is probably coming too late.