In November 2018, Shoebat.com speculated that the murder of Jamal Khashoggi may have been an attempt by elder members of the House of Saud to strip power from the younger members in an attempt to preserve the long-term survival of the family amid growing threats, and in particular from Turkey:
What appears to be happening here was a calculated wager taken by Abdulaziz against MbS to protect the House of Saud as well as settle an internal family dispute in the most peaceable way possible. Abdulaziz wanted power for himself and he also knew that a fight with Turkey was inevitable, and in order to get into power as smoothly as possible while setting up Saudi Arabia to be in the best possible shape for the future, he wagered the future of Saudi Arabia by risking a war with Turkey now to hopefully stop, delay, or have as minimal as possible a war with Turkey in the future in the name of consolidating his own power and the long-term rule of the House of Saud.
Nobody liked Khashoggi. Even Turkey, who is “demanding” an investigation into his death, could most likely care less about him except that he is a political lever which they want to use to justify anti-Saudi policies and eventually realize their goal of khazouking the House of Saud.
Abdulaziz would know that murdering Khashoggi would be a risk, but given how the Khashoggi family has an infamous reputation, he was a “major” figure enough to draw attention from the world but also hated enough because of his family’s known crimes that he could likely get away with the murder without causing too much unnecessary blowback- less than, for example, murdering a Turkish diplomat with a clean past.
Abdulaziz used the Khashoggi murder to destroy any credibility that MbS had in the Middle East or the Saud family and with that strip him of his power and move in to take his place, bringing with him his reputation of good will towards the Shia and by default, the Iranians. Improving relations with the Shias improves relations with Iran and muddles any joint Turkish-Iranian desires or plans to destroy Saudi Arabia. His actions also allow him to invert the threats of MbS to refuse to buy American weapons. In theory, he is now in a position to say that he not only does he want US weapons, but MORE than before and that he will want a closer partnership with the Americans.
The Saudis come out looking great, like they had a “bad apple” they disposed of and are trying to make a better nation (when in reality they are not, just to have the appearance of it) before the world, Iran is forced to say something nice about Saudi Arabia, America gets to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia and put more troops in the Middle East for cheap oil, and a major internal family dispute is settled. The biggest loser is Turkey, who is going to rant about what Saudi Arabia did but now cannot criticize her for failing to address the matter because she made “reforms” to deal with the “problem” (even though it was all a staged show). Turkey already hates Saudi Arabia so the Saudis could care less about her reaction if she wants to talk so long as they cannot give her a justification for military action, which Turkey hoped to use this for but was tricked by the Saudis as it appears to have been all planned out.
This prediction appears to be coming true, as the elder members of the House of Saud have used the attack to strip a cornered Mohammed bin Salman of some of his powers while increasing their own:
The heir to the Saudi throne has not attended a series of high-profile ministerial and diplomatic meetings in Saudi Arabia over the last fortnight and is alleged to have been stripped of some of his financial and economic authority, the Guardian has been told.
The move to restrict, if only temporarily, the responsibilities of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is understood to have been revealed to a group of senior ministers earlier last week by his father, King Salman.
The king is said to have asked Bin Salman to be at this cabinet meeting, but he failed to attend.
While the move has not been declared publicly, the Guardian has been told that one of the king’s trusted advisers, Musaed al-Aiban, who was educated at Harvard and recently named as national security adviser, will informally oversee investment decisions on the king’s behalf.
The Saudi embassy in Washington has declined multiple requests for comment since the Guardian approached it on Tuesday.
The relationship between the king and his son has been under scrutiny since the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which was alleged to have been ordered by Prince Mohammed and provoked international condemnation of the crown prince. This has been denied by the Saudi government.
Experts on the Middle East are divided over whether the murder, and concern over the kingdom’s role in the conflict in Yemen, have led to tension at the heart of the notoriously secretive royal court.
But while most observers expect Prince Mohammed to accede to the throne, there are some signs that the king is seeking to rein in his controversial son at a time when Saudi Arabia is under the spotlight.
The Guardian has been told Prince Mohammed did not attend two of the most recent weekly meetings of cabinet ministers, which are headed by the king.
The crown prince has also not attended other high-profile talks with visiting dignitaries, including one last week with the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov.
Prince Mohammed also wasn’t present at a meeting with senior economic and finance officials earlier this week, a meeting between the king and the grand mufti, a meeting with the head of the World Health Organisation, and meetings with the prime minister of Lebanon, and ambassadors from India and China.
A spokesman for the Saudi government in Washington declined to comment on the absences or provide information on the crown prince’s whereabouts.
The spokesman also did not comment on the alleged decision to remove from Prince Mohammed some of his financial responsibilities, or the decision to informally appoint al-Aiban to oversee financial matters.
It is unclear from recent official press statements about the king and the prince’s activities whether Prince Mohammed has been absent from all of the high-profile events, but the prince has not appeared in any recent photographs or press statements, apart from a report that he spoke to Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe over the phone last week.
A spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry confirmed Prince Mohammed had not met foreign minister Lavrov last week. She also said no such meeting had been planned in advance.
Though Prince Mohammed has missed meetings before, a source familiar with the workings of the royal court said there was genuine surprise at some of the ‘no-shows’ in the last fortnight.
The king is understood to have been particularly displeased with his son’s absence from the cabinet meeting on Tuesday, during which the king discussed the many challenges facing the kingdom.
In a two-hour address, the king is understood to have raised concerns over alleged lost investments into Saudi Arabia.
It led to a demand that all major future financial decisions would, for the time being, need the king’s personal approval, according to the account given to the Guardian. The decision was considered effective immediately and concerned major investments by the kingdom and other contracts.
The New York Times also reported this week that Saudi Arabia’s government investment fund has gone through a “messy break-up” with a Hollywood investor after the investor decided to stop doing business with the fund and return a $400m Saudi investment in the wake of Khashoggi’s murder.
Saudi Arabia has adamantly denied that Prince Mohammed played a role in the killing, but the CIA is widely reported to have concluded with a medium to high degree of confidence that the crown prince ordered the murder of Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Saudi Arabia is also facing international scrutiny on other alleged human rights abuses of political detainees, including one dual American-Saudi citizen, Walid Fitaihi, who is being held without charges.
The Guardian reported last week that there appeared to be subtle signs of a rift emerging between the elderly king and his son. Tensions are said to have flared up after Prince Mohammed announced two important personnel decisions hours after the king left Saudi Arabia for an official visit to Egypt.
The promotion of Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan to serve as Saudi ambassador to the US, and the promotion of Prince Mohammed’s brother, Khalid bin Salman, to the ministry of defence, were allegedly announced without the king’s approval or knowledge.
The decrees to make the changes were signed by the crown prince in his role as “deputy king”, which some experts said was exceedingly rare.
Prince Mohammed did not personally welcome his father home at the airport upon his return to Saudi Arabia from Egypt, which would have been customary.
A spokesman for the Saudi embassy said: “It is customary for the King of Saudi Arabia to issue a royal order delegating the power to administer the affairs of the state to his deputy, the crown prince, whenever he travels abroad. That was the case during King Salman’s recent visit to Egypt.”
He said the announcements were made by Prince Mohammed in his capacity as deputy king and on behalf of the king. “Any insinuation to the contrary is simply baseless.”
Some Middle East writers say the suggestions of a rift have been overblown and that the crown prince was already serving as a “king in everything but name”.
Madawi al-Rasheed, a professor at the London School of Economics, has argued that King Salman has staunchly supported his son even in the wake of the Khashoggi murder, opting to tour the kingdom “with his son by his side, sending a strong message that he retains the full support of the royal court”.
Others have said that the crown prince could be absent from public events for any number of reasons, that the king has been a staunch supporter of his son despite previous controversies and that his stance is unlikely to change. (source, source)
Mohammed bin Salman got tricked, and with it the older members of the Saud family “settled the family business”, opened a way for improved relations with Iran, and repelled the Turks in a single move.
It could be a scene out of a movie, but as is often always is, truth is stranger than fiction.
Could this lead to a greater conflict in the Saud family, as opposed to solving it? It certainly is possible, and given the vulnerable position of Saudi Arabia, it is also possible that what seems to have been a plan to preserve Saudi Arabia’s current power structure may backfire on them.
It is something to watch.