King Salman Bin Abdulaziz is facing a serious challenge to his reign by none other than his own son Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, according to the British newspaper, the Guardian. The UK daily reported potential moves against the king prompting alarm over security staff entrusted to protect him.
Citing a detailed account from a source, the Guardian reported that tensions increased dramatically in late February when the 83-year-old king visited Egypt and was warned by his advisers he was at risk of a potential move against him.
His entourage are said to have been alarmed at the possible threat to King Salman’s authority that a new security team, comprised of more than 30 hand-picked loyalists from the interior ministry, was flown to Egypt to replace the existing team.
The source told the Guardian that move was made as part of a rapid response, and reflected concern that some of the original security staff might have been loyal to the Crown Prince who has been the de-facto ruler of the kingdom since being appointed to the position by King Salman under controversial circumstances. It’s believed that a soft-coup was orchestrated to oust the former Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Nayef.
Underlining the friction in the father-son relationship, the report mentioned that the crown prince, known as MBS, was not among those sent to welcome the king home from his trip to Egypt. His absence, was seen as a pointed snub to the crown prince. It also mentioned that MBS had signed off two major personnel changes while the king was away. They included the appointment of a female Ambassador to the US, Princess Reema Bint Bandar Bin Sultan, and that of his full brother, Khalid Bin Salman, to the ministry of defence.
Both announcements are said to have been made without the knowledge of King Salman who is reported to have been angered by what he believed was a premature move to elevate Prince Khalid to a more senior role.
The source of the rift between father and son is said to be disagreements over a number of issues including the crown prince’s handing of the war in Yemen and the killing of Saudi journalists Jamal Khashoggi. The decision to murder the Washington Post’s outspoken critic of MBS is widely believed to have been sanctioned by the crown prince.
Rumours of a deep rift within the Saudi royal family have been coming thick and fast. Arab newspaper Al-Khaleej reported last year about cracks within King Salman’s inner circle, and the miscalculations of his son, which are said to have put the country’s Vision 2030 at grave risk.
The report cited interventions by Saudi King to undo the damage caused by his son, namely his support for US President Donald Trump’s peace plan concerning Israel and Palestine known as the “deal of the century”.
Bin Salman had privately given his backing to the deal even though it undermined Palestinian rights. Despite the US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem in the face of global outrage, Bin Salman had given no indication that he is protecting the basic rights of Palestine in any proposed deal. Instead he has been accused of berating Palestinians by telling them to accept Trump’s deal or shut up.