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Daily News Analysis

Saudi succession battle goes to Paris

Crescent International

While there is war raging in the inner sanctums of Bani Saud, the two head honchos are also going head-to-head to accumulate brownie points to prove their eligibility for the throne. The majority of senior princes are extremely unhappy with the way the kingdom's policy is being conducted. Defence Minister Mohammad bin Salman's failures are piling up but being son of the king is his big advantage. Mohammad bin Nayef has struck back.

Paris, crescent-online.net
Sunday March 13, 2016, 12:17 DST

The succession battle is heating up among the Bani Saud. The two head honchos—Crown Prince and Interior Minister Mohammad bin Nayef and Deputy Crown Prince and Defence Minister Mohammad bin Salman—are trying to accumulate brownie points to prove who is more qualified to assume the throne after the 80-year-old King Salman, already suffering from dementia, dies.

Logically speaking—if logic applies to anything at all among the Bani Saud—Bin Nayef would be a shoe-in. After all, he is the crown prince but the situation is a lot more complicated than that. His upstart cousin Bin Salman (BS for short) has advantage over him because the latter happens to be the favorite son of the current king.

So what does Bin Nayef do? Well, he asked the French to confer on him that country’s highest award: Legion d'Honneur. After due consideration, the French decided to oblige, provided, as Bin Nayef tactfully advised, the media should not be informed of the minor details.

The French magazine, Causette published last week a series of email exchanges between French officials showing they accepted a request by the Saudi prince to award him the prestigious award earlier this month.

For once, the extroverted French were discreet. What is a medal—even if it happens to be the country’s highest civilian award—among friends when billions in arms contracts are involved? But here is the catch: it is the other punk, Bin Salman (BS) as defence minister that awards arms contracts.

So why was Bin Nayef chosen for the award apart from chopping a lot of heads in the kingdom?

“No reason not to do it: It must be discreet concerning the media, without covering it up,” said the North Africa/Middle East director of the French Foreign Ministry in response to warnings that the award would raise questions due to Saudi Arabia’s terrible human rights record.

Even the French ambassador to Riyadh had warned advisors in the presidency and foreign ministry against the award. He feared if the truth came out, it would stir controversy in the media.

But the French foreign ministry already had a handy excuse. If questioned, the government “should respond '(for the) fight against Daesh and economic partnership'. Of course, let's add, for good measure, elements about human rights,” the French magazine Causette reported.

So the French were thinking of head chopping and money making in their decision to give Bin Nayef the award. After all, the French themselves introduced head chopping using the guillotine. Bin Nayef must have reminded them of the good old days when the French chopped the heads of Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI after the French revolution.

Were the French indulging in some dark humor to award the Saudi head chopper the highest award for a day when Bani Saud family’s heads would be on the chopping block?

We cannot wait for that day but for now even some dark humor would do in these dour times.


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