In a bid to shore up his rule, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman seeks to permanently take down a former throne contender.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) is in the process of levelling corruption and disloyalty charges against his one-time competitor for the throne, Mohammed bin Nayef (MBN).
According to the Washington Post, the charges are part of the Crown Prince’s ruthless and ambitious efforts to secure his throne by tying up what he sees as loose ends and any potential future threats.
MBN, once a close ally of the US, having worked with the CIA as the former interior minister of the Kingdom, was arrested earlier this year on charges of corruption and plotting to overthrow MBS.
According to media reports, this current spate of palace politics harks back to 2015, shortly after King Salman acceded to the throne after the death of King Abdullah in January of that year.
On Thursday, US Congressman Francis Rooney praised Rooney for his role in the fight against terrorism and demanded that the Saudis provide information about his whereabouts.
"Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Nayef has worked constructively with the United States for many years and was instrumental in providing counter terrorism intel in the aftermath of 9/11. We need to know right now where he is and if he is safe."
Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Nayef has worked constructively with the United States for many years and was instrumental in providing counter terrorism intel in the aftermath of 9/11. We need to know right now where he is and if he is safe. https://t.co/HdqFkkZsxY— Francis Rooney (@RepRooney) July 16, 2020
The long-standing Saudi tradition names the Crown Prince as the heir apparent — a position MBN held until June 2017 when a sudden reshuffle resulted in him losing that position as well as that of interior minister. MBN was then placed under house arrest.
When it was announced that MBS, the son of King Salman, would become the new Crown Prince, MBN commented by saying, "I am content...I am going to rest now. May God help you."
According to sources who spoke to the Washington Post, MBS’s “anti-corruption committee” will level charges against MBN for skimming billions of dollars when he was in charge of the interior ministry. MBN will be allegedly asked to re-pay more than $15 billion.
The palace intrigue goes much further than an anti-corruption probe, with there being possible links with one of MBN’s close confidants who escaped MBS’s purge and is currently living in Canada.
Saad al-Jabri rose through the ranks of the interior ministry with MBN’s help. When things turned sour, and MBS sought to tighten his grip on power by eliminating opponents, al-Jabri eluded him. He is now living in exile.
The Crown Prince fears al-Jabari because the former intelligence official potentially has documents in his possession that could prove damaging.
Days after MBN was detained earlier this year, Saudi authorities also arrested two of al-Jabari’s children in a dawn raid which was later followed by his brother’s arrest.
These actions have been called “hostage-taking as a tool of governing” in a bid to threaten and intimidate opponents to the Crown Prince’s rule.
The high stakes gambit is part of an attempt either to force al-Jabari to hand over documents or return to the Kingdom.
According to a Reuters report, the top-secret papers include details of bin Nayef’s assets abroad. These could be liquidated in return for the former Crown Prince’s freedom.
There is a precedent for such action: in 2017, MBS arrested senior royals and held them at the Ritz Carlton, in what amounted to a state-sanctioned shakedown of wealthy individuals who paid billions of dollars in exchange for their freedom.
Other documents presumed to be held by al-Jabari, include highly sensitive files relating to the financial transactions by senior royals including King Salaman and MBS.
US authorities have speculated that there are thousands of Saudis who are facing travel bans as part of a campaign by MBS to ensure that opposition members can no longer flee or muzzle opponents abroad.
Since the murder and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, MBS’s purported progressive image was badly damaged.
MBS spent much of his first year courting western opinion-makers and politicians, however since Khashoggi’s death in 2018, few if any, want to be seen with the Crown Prince.