In the wake of the alleged assassination of Muslim Brotherhood activist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi Arabia, the country’s elites are reportedly planning to push out Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who has served as the effective leader of the country for the last 16 months, according to a report by Le Figaro.
The Allegiance Council, a body consisting of senior members of Saudi Arabia’s ruling families, which determines the rules for succession within the Kingdom, reportedly favors replacing Prince Mohammad with his younger brother, Prince Khalid bin Salman, the current Saudi Ambassador to the United States, who is seen as more agreeable to the country’s establishment. Prince Mohammad drew the ire of many powerful figures in other factions of the House of Saud after a 2017 crackdown on corrupt businessmen, supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, and alleged al-Qaeda benefactors.
Should the change go ahead, it is unlikely to be immediate, however. The report suggests Prince Khalid will take the position of Deputy Crown Prince, and then after a few years he would succeed Prince Mohammad as Crown Prince so he would be next in line to the Saudi throne. Although King Salman has overseen a consolidation of power in the hands of his close family, he has distanced himself from Prince Mohammad’s strongly pro-Israel stance, and giving the post to his other son may be enough of a compromise for him to lend his support to this initiative.
Nevertheless, Prince Mohammad wields a vast amount of personal power within the Kingdom. As Defense Minister, he has control over the army, and has also seized control over the National Guard, a previously independent institution which was intended to serve as a counterbalance to the army. As well as this, his populist style has made phenomenally popular among the Saudi population as a whole, particularly among younger people. This would make any move against him at best politically unwise, and at worst, dangerous.
The American deep state, however, has grown increasingly skeptical of Prince Mohammad’s policies. Mohammad bin Salman has brought the country closer to Russia, signing unprecedented major arms and oil deals with Russian President Vladimir Putin. In addition, Prince Mohammad’s rise to power was enabled by U.S. President Donald Trump, who deployed key staffers to install a Saudi ruler that would be more loyal to him. Furthermore, his ousted predecessor, Mohammad bin Nayef, was a close friend of subversive CIA Director John Brennan, and had sought support from the Obama administration in maintaining his rule. Unsurprisingly, Brennan has emerged as a vocal proponent for removing bin Salman.