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Daily News Analysis

Bin Salman’s Saturday night coup: Will he get away with it?

Crescent International

Monday November 06, 2017

Couched in the language of ‘fighting corruption’, Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman is trying to eliminate all potential rivals and their supporters in his drive to grab absolute power.

The large-scale Saturday night arrests indicate that Bin Salman (BS) has abandoned caution and instead of working through consensus among the secretive group of royals, he wants to take the dissenters head on.

True, he has the support of his father, King Salman but is the king even aware of what is going on around him?

The arrests give clue to the trouble that has been brewing in the inner sanctums of the Bani Saud clan where other, more senior royals are unhappy with the way BS has handled (or mishandled) policy, internally as well as externally.

The dismissal of Saudi navy chief as well as several high-ranking army officers suggests that they had disagreed with Bin Salman’s policy vis-à-vis Yemen. The Saudi-led war on Yemen is going nowhere. Instead, it has raised the possibility of war crimes charges being brought against those prosecuting it.

Bin Salman cannot tolerate disagreement. Given his impulsive nature, he struck casting his net far and wide. The real target was Moteib bin Abdullah, head of the National Guard who was seen as the real threat to his assumption of absolute power.

Moteib’s dismissal was widely expected. But his arrest indicates, BS does not want to take any chances.

Turki bin Abdullah, Moteib’s brother and one time governor of Riyadh province was also arrested, as was Khaled al Tuwaijiri, former head of the royal court.

BS had his eyes on two men in particular—Moteib and al Tuwaijiri—who had plotted before King Abdullah died to grab power by sidelining Salman. The latter was crown prince when King Abdullah was in a coma in hospital.

Moteib and al Tuwaijiri had kept this a tightly guarded secret and wanted to forge Abdullah’s signature on a decree dismissing Salman as crown prince and replacing him with Moteib.

Salman and BS got wind of it and the plot was blocked before it could be put into action. The father-son duo is now following the very script they had prevented from being implemented in January 2015 before Abdullah died.

Crown Prince Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz was dismissed and replaced by Muhammad bin Nayef. Then Bin Nayef was removed and Muhammad bin Salman was appointed Crown Prince last May.

Bin Nayef is under house arrest as is Abdul Aziz bin Fahd, another former king’s favorite son (All Saudi rulers seem to have favorite sons!).

In addition to Moteib and his brother Turki bin Abdullah, the list of detainees include:

Alwaleed bin Talal, owner of Kingdom Holding group;

Waleed al-Ibrahim, chairman of MBC media group and brother-in-law of the late King Fahd;

Khaled al-Tuwaijri, former president of the Royal Court;

Prince Turki bin Nasser, former head of meteorology, environment;

Adel Faqih, minister of economy and planning and former mayor of Jeddah;

Amr al-Dabbagh, former president of the General Investment Authority

Saleh Abdullah Kamel, chairman of Dallah al Baraka Group (including al Baraka Bank). He is reported to have close links with the Muslim Brotherhood;

Saud al-Tobaishi, head of Royal ceremonies and protocols

Ibrahim al-Assaf, state minister and executive of Saudi Aramco;

Bakr Binladin, owner of construction company Saudi Binladin Group;

Saud al-Dawish, former CEO of Saudi Telecom Company;

Khaled al-Mulhem, former director general of Saudi Arabian Airlines

If the purpose was really to fight corruption, then Bandar bin Sultan should have topped the list but that venal character is apparently still at large.

The arrests are political in nature and are meant to eliminate Bin Salman’s opponents so that he can become the king.

The November 5 helicopter crash near Yemen’s border that killed Prince Mansoor bin Muqrin is believed to have been the result of sabotage. Was the prince trying to escape arrest by fleeing?

The medieval kingdom has entered a dangerous phase where backstabbing (literally), intrigue and killings are going to become routine.

Bin Salman’s power grab is not assured. He may fall victim to his own machinations. As the saying goes: the higher the monkey climbs, the harder it falls.

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