Saudi Coup “Imminent” As Crown Prince’s Uncle Arrives To Oust “Toxic” MbS
The youngest brother of Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has returned from self-imposed exile to “challenge” Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) “or find someone who can,” reports the Middle East Eye.
Prince Ahmad bin Abdulaziz
Prince Ahmad bin Abdulaziz is reportedly hoping to oust his 33-year-old nephew in the wake of an allegedly state-sanctioned murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. MbS has virtual control over Saudi Arabia after a June 2017 shakeup in which King Salman removed Muhammad bin Nayef as heir apparent.
The septuagenarian prince, an open critic of bin Salman (MBS), has travelled with security guarantees given by US and UK officials.
“He and others in the family have realised that MBS has become toxic,” a Saudi source close to Prince Ahmad told Middle East Eye.
“The prince wants to play a role to make these changes, which means either he himself will play a major role in any new arrangement or to help to choose an alternative to MBS.” –Middle East Eye
Prince Ahmad has reportedly been meeting with other members of the Saudi royal family living outside the kingdom, along with “figures inside the kingdom” who have encouraged him to usurp his nephew. According to MEE, “there are three senior princes who support Prince Ahmad’s move,” who remain unnamed to protect their security.
According to Saudi dissident Prince Khalid Bin Farhan Al Saud, he expects a coup to be orchestrated against King Salman and MbS, as reported by the Middle East Monitor, which reports that a coup is “imminent.”
“The coming period will witness a coup against the king and the crown prince,” said Prince Khalid while commenting on the Khashoggi murder.
Khashoggi, a 59-year-old Washington Post journalist who had criticized the Crown Prince, was murdered on October 2 after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain paperwork ahead of his upcoming wedding. His body has not been found, but is believed to have been dismembered after he was reportedly choked to death.
Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, 76, has been living in the UK for several years after serving as Saudi Arabia’s deputy minister of interior between 1975 – 2012, and briefly as minister of interior in 2012. Ahmed was seen as a potential candidate to succeed King Salman in the early 2000’s, however he was sidelined in March 2014 amid one of several shakeups within the House of Saud.
On November 4, 2017 bin Salman began arresting as many as 500 Saudi princes, government ministers and businessmen – detaining them in the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh. Private jets were grounded to prevent people from fleeing, while over 2,000 domestic bank accounts and other assets were frozen as the government targeted up to $800 billion in wealth that was reportedly “linked to corruption.”
Prince Ahmad was protected from the purge, as MbS was unable to touch any sons of King Abdulaziz, founder of the modern Saudi state.
Standoff with Turkey
As MEE notes, Prince Ahmad’s return comes amid a tense standoff between Saudi Arabia and Turkey following the Khashoggi murder. Turkish authorities have demanded to know what happened to the journalist’s body and have requested audio of the execuiton rumored to exist.
In a thinly veiled attack on the crown prince, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday accused the Saudis of protecting the person responsible for the murder.
“A game to save somebody lies beneath this,” Erdogan told reporters following a speech in parliament on Tuesday. “We won’t leave Khashoggi’s murder behind.”
The Turkish president, who outlined some of the investigation into Khashoggi’s murder in an address last week, has promised to reveal more details about the killing but has so far refrained from doing so. –Middle East Eye
Despite Saudi chief prosecutor Saud al-Mojeb and Istanbul’s chief prosecutor Ifran Fidan meeting twice over the last several days, no progress has been reported.
The Saudis, meanwhile, continue to refuse Turkish investigators access to a well located at the home of the consul-general which lies 500 meters from the consulate.
So far 18 suspects have been arrested in the murder, 15 of whom were members of a death squad reportedly sent to kill Khashoggi. MbS, meanwhile, has denied any knowledge of the operation which reportedly included five members of his personal security detail – three of whom have accompanied the Crown Prince on high-profile trips to Washington, London and Paris.
Prince Ahmad’s opposition to MbS
The exiled prince has challenged his nephew at least three times, according to MEE.
First, in the summer of 2017, when the king’s brother was one of three members of the Allegiance Council, a body of senior royals tasked with choosing the succession, to oppose bin Salman’s appointment as crown prince.
Prince Ahmed pointedly did not give an oath of allegiance to his nephew when he was made King Salman’s heir.
Second, when Prince Ahmad and King Salman’s brother, Abdelrahman bin Abdulaziz, died last year. Only two pictures were hung at the reception given by Prince Ahmad, that of King Abdulaziz and the current monarch. The crown prince’s portrait was notably missing.
Third, last month, when Prince Ahmad approached Yemeni and Bahraini protesters outside his London home who were calling the al-Sauds a criminal family.
Ahmad told the hecklers that the Saudi royal family as a whole is not responsible for the war in Yemen – just the king and crown prince.
“They are responsible for crimes in Yemen. Tell Mohammed bin Salman to stop the war,” Ahmad told them in Arabic.
Regime Change In Riyadh? The CIA Has Just Publicly Dumped MbS
A fascinating FT article suggests Western intelligence agencies have now dumped Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman after he’s been personally accused by world leaders — foremost among them Turkey’s President Erdogan and US President Trump — for ordering the brutal murder and dismemberment of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Implicit in the article, rich with quotes from current and former US and Western intelligence officials, is the further suggestion that these very intel operatives appear to now be actively seeking MbS’ ouster.
But the other fascinating aspect to FT’s commentary is what it reveals about both the mainstream media and intelligence ‘deep state’ perspective on the kingdom and Middle East politics in general: a head of state is deemed good or bad insofar they are amenable to the goals of Western intelligence agencies. While this might be obvious to any student of the history of covert action in the 20th century, it is rare to see it acknowledged so out in the open in a mainstream publication. The FT article reads like a “bragging rights” competition over which crown prince could be better formed by US intelligence: MbS or his recently ousted cousin Mohammed bin Nayef (MbN)?
For the intelligence officials interviewed, some named but most unnamed, the ultimate problem is not that a sadistic crown prince just ordered that a prominent journalist be literally hacked up while still breathing, but that the resulting PR nightmare has damaged CIA and MI6 inroads into Riyadh.
According to FT:
The slow collapse in trust, played out in public, represents a dramatic departure from the close and covert relationship that the CIA and MI6 developed with his ousted cousin and rival for power, Mohammed bin Nayef.
Essentially this translates to an absurd cry of “gone are the good ole days when the Saudi crown prince was a dutiful CIA asset!” Such CIA confessions to FT are astounding for their unabashed and barefaced frankness over just what US foreign policy actually values in an allied foreign leader.
Now that MbS has quickly fallen out of favor with the “global community,” FT can openly print its following conclusion:
When Mohammed bin Salman was promoted to crown prince last year, he did not just become heir to the Saudi throne. He also displaced a darling of western intelligence.
Says one former senior western intelligence official: “It will be harder under MBS to have the same degree of confidence [that] we can work with Saudi Arabia in light of the brutal murder of Khashoggi.” So really the now publicly embattled MbS presents a mere “confidence problem” for allied intelligence agencies after their “darling” was replaced in 2017.
“MBN was the closest partner the US has had in fighting al-Qaeda, anywhere around the world, period,” Bruce Riedel, a former CIA analyst who worked on Saudi Arabia for decades, told FT. Riedel continued lamenting the good ole days in saying, “He’s extremely well regarded both in the CIA and in the White House among the Bush and Obama administrations.”
Or rather we should say, as a prior (and rare) New York Times piece pointed out, the Saudis are in reality “both the arsonists and the firefighters” regarding jihadi terrorism in the region and the globe, suppressing the extremist threat domestically while channeling it as a tool or extension of the Washington-Riyadh axis’ geopolitical goals (essentially using al-Qaeda to thwart Iran, and as a blunt force proxy for regime change from 1980s Afghanistan to Kosovo to Libya to Syria).
Last week CIA chief Gina Haspel flew to Turkey to gather more details on Jamal Kha
Former CIA analyst Bruce Riedel continued:
Mr Riedel said many in the US intelligence fraternity had warned at the time that the promotion of his rival Prince Mohammed — first as defense minister and deputy crown prince in 2015, and ultimately as heir to his father’s throne in 2017 — would have a detrimental impact on the quality of Saudi intelligence.
“I would assume there are some ‘I told you so’s’ going on,” said Mr Riedel, referring to frustration among some within the US intelligence community that the Trump White House was so quick to endorse Prince Mohammed.
So is all of this simply the CIA attempting its own PR damage control now that Saudi leadership has been exposed as but another US-sponsored human rights abusing tin-pot dictatorship?
Right on cue, the FT comes in to try and lay ultimate blame for the now embarrassing US ally MbS: “Mr Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, struck up a close personal relationship with Prince Mohammed early in the administration,” comments FT.
And further, a senior intelligence official, who sounds a bit like the CIA version of Thomas Friedman, said of bin Nayef’s apparently now “rehabilitated” image:
He “was open to western ideas and so he became the person the western agencies were closest to”, the former official added, saying close personal ties led to significant intelligence breakthroughs.
As for the clear closeness the CIA had with bin Salman during his past year in power (especially in places of close cooperation like Yemen and Syria), some subtle apologetic excuse-making is apparently in order:
But while many foreign officials were reluctant to support him, some intelligence officials recognized his star was on the rise and sought him out as a long-term partner.
Thus MbS has now been effectively dumped by the Western intel agencies that up until the moment “he was caught” chopping up a Washington Post journalist was a “recognized rising star”.
Again, aside from it reading like a carefully crafted CIA press release, the FT article is fascinating for what it reveals about both the mainstream media and intelligence ‘deep state’ perspective on the whole Khashoggi affair and US-Saudi relations in general.
But is there still hope for MbS even after President Trump said last week, “He’s running things and so if anybody were going to be [involved in a plot to kill Khashoggi], it would be him,”…?
Yes there is, even at this stage of global outrage and an international press that’s turned against MbS, according to an intelligence source quoted by FT. Speaking of MbS, the official asserted:
“The guy is on the ropes; he knows he’s on the ropes,” the person added. “If you save him right now he’s going to be triply loyal.”
Astoundingly, this is tantamount to extending a public invitation for MbS to save his own ass by becoming “triply loyal” to the CIA and MI6.
If MbS actually survives all of this, it will indeed be safe to assume it was at the expense of pledging himself as a full-on and willing puppet at the service of Western intelligence agencies. If he doesn’t, it is safe to assume that said intel agencies have finally cut him lose — time will soon tell.