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Bin Salman's absence during Tillerson and Al-Abadi's reception sparks speculation

King of Saudi Arabia Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (R) and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) shake hands during their meeting in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on October 22, 2017 [Bandar Algaloud / Saudi Royal Council / Handout - Anadolu Agency]
King of Saudi Arabia Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (R) and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) shake hands during their meeting in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on 22 October 2017 [Bandar Algaloud/Handout/Anadolu Agency]

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was not present yesterday at the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi's reception where they signed the memorandum of understanding to establish a joint Saudi-Iraqi Coordination Council.

His absence exasperates suspicions about the Saudi Crown Prince – recently speculations have circulated that he was assassinated or that he has met another fate at the hands of opponents from within the royal family.

This is the most conspicuous absence as he did not appear once during the previous week, except at the meeting of the Saudi Council of Ministers on Tuesday and when he received the Chief of Staff of the Pakistani Army Staff, Lieutenant General Qamar Javed Bajwa, on the same day.

Read more: Israeli official confirms: Bin Salman visited Tel Aviv last month

Bin Salman was also absent from the anti-terrorism conference that was held at King Saud University, under his sponsorship.

Observers find it strange that bin Salman was absent during Tillerson's reception. Tillerson came in search of a solution to the Gulf crisis whose threads in the Kingdom have been woven by bin Salman himself since its outbreak in June.

Bin Salman was also absent during the reception of the Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah who visited the Kingdom last Monday in search of a solution to the Gulf crisis.

Saudi Arabia's King Salman Bin Abdulaziz receives Kuwaiti Emir Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah on 16 October 2017 [Bandar Algaloud/Suudi Kraliyet Divanı/Anadolu Agency]

In charge of economic affairs since he started to gain prominence in the Royal Palace, bin Salman also did not attend the signature of an important economic memorandum that was held on Sunday and is expected to open up new gateways for KSA to invest in Iraq.

Saudi Arabia has been negotiating to form a new alliance that would give Riyadh a leading role in rebuilding war-damaged towns and cities in Iraq.

Senior officials in Riyadh, who have set for themselves an ambitious agenda for economic and cultural reform, believe that there is an opportunity to rebuild Iraq's Sunni areas as part of broader moves to curb Iran and prove KSA's power after Daesh. Bin Salman is in charge of these files, but still, he was not there to discuss them on Sunday.

A conspicuous absence

Earlier, the famous Saudi blogger Al-Ahd Al-Jadid said that bin Salman had disappeared after an unprecedented escalation in family disputes.

The same Twitter user had previously mentioned that bin Salman is afraid of being assassinated and that he only trusts Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, whom he considers his mentor and supporter.

Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (R) attends a meeting with The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi General Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan (L) in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on June 2, 2017. ( Bandar Algaloud / Saudi Royal Council / Handout – Anadolu Agency )

Likewise, the Twitter user Mujtahid revealed that the Saudi Crown Prince's personality has changed and he has disappeared several times for fear of being targeted.

Mujtahid said that "bin Salman no longer feels safe and he is spending most of his time in the Serene Yacht on the Red Sea coast".

He pointed out that the reason for choosing the yacht was because "he thinks that those who want to assassinate him, either his family members or others, cannot reach him, as the guards are mostly mercenaries".

Mujtahid also pointed out that the incident at the Royal Palace in Jeddah on 9 October caused him panic and anxiety, especially since two security guards were killed and three others injured, which made him feel that the palace is no longer a safe place.

Mujtahid continued that bin Salman believes that members of the Royal Family are involved in this incident because of the level of anger against him.

News reports have previously talked about increasing efforts within the Al Saud family to isolate the Saudi King, Salman bin Abdulaziz, and to follow Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz and convince him to take over the country's leadership.

Read more: Controversial Saudi Prince detained

This move is aimed at creating the impression that King Salman is incapable of ruling because of his "mental state" and so invalidating the appointment of his son, Mohammed bin Salman, as Crown Prince.

King Salman of Saudi Arabia issued royal orders on 21 June to appoint his son as Crown Prince instead of Prince Muhammad bin Nayef, who has been discharged from all his positions.

Local and Western media reports have circulated that King Salman's relinquishment of power to his son, Mohammed bin Salman, has already been recorded and that he is waiting for the right moment to announce it.

A petition, which senior Al Saud princes signed to King Salman in objection to handing over the power to bin Salman, had been previously leaked.

Western media have spoken of the strong influence of Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed on bin Salman. This was evident in the recent Gulf crisis, which broke out when Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut ties with Qatar on the pretext of Qatar's support for terrorism. Doha has strongly denied that accusation.

Bin Salman and bin Zayed are primarily responsible for this gratuitous crisis because they have ignored all attempts at reconciliation and many of the Emir of Kuwait's mediation efforts.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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