The Butcher in Riyadh, by Majeed Dahiru
Out of the Box
In breaking with the tradition of succession by agnatic seniority among the descendants of Ibn Saud to throne of Saudi Arabia, King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz al-Saud deposed his nephew Mohammed bin Nayef and appointed his own son, Mohammed bin Salman as crown prince in June 2017. The successful replacing the agnatic seniority of succession with agnatic primogeniture in 2017 by King Salman was actually a second attempt at breaking with tradition in the oil rich Kingdom following an unsuccessful attempt by King Saud bin Abdul-Aziz as-Saud in 1964.
Following a power struggle between King Saud and his half-brother, Crown Prince Faisal over administrative control of then debt ridden Saudi Arabia, the King let out the idea of replacing his brother with his son as heir apparent. To survive this attempt to replace him as crown prince, Faisal had to rely on the support of the most powerful bloc within the royal house hold of Saud, the Sudairi seven, who not only prevented the change in the order of succession but executed the subsequent deposition of King Saud to make way for the ascending of King Faisal to the throne. The Sudairi seven is a clique of seven sons of the founder of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Abdul-Aziz al-Saud and his favourite wife of over 20 years, Hussa Sudairi.
Named after their mother’s tribe, the Sudairi seven are the single largest number of male children from a single mother in the house of Saud, which combined with their clannish proclivity made them the most formidable power bloc within the royal house hold. The support for Faisal will earn the Sudairi seven abundance of reward in privileged positions of power that will later culminate into two Kings; Fahd and the reigning, Salman.
As governor of Riyadh in 1964, King Salman had taken sides with King Faisal in the struggle to maintain the sanctity of the tradition of succession by agnatic seniority, he understands the necessary safe guards to be put in place to allow for his repudiation of the old order to make way for his son. The arrest of members of the royal household on charges of corruption by crown prince Mohammed bin Salman on the premise of a vague form of corruption was only a power consolidation strategy to unsettle disgruntled princes and make it impracticable for them to organize a much anticipated revolt against King Salman as he and others did King Saud in 1964. Described as the favourite son of King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been the real power behind his aged and ailing [Alzheimer] father’s throne.
Many watchers of the oil rich Arab Kingdom are not be surprised by the recent attempt at preserving the throne exclusively for the Sudairi seven and their descendants within the royal household as they are notorious for coveting public offices that they convert into fiefs mostly staffed by their sons. King Fahd will stretch this clannish proclivity further when he unsuccessfully attempted to appoint his full brother prince Sultan as crown prince ahead of his seniors in 1982. The recent elevation of Mohammed bin Salman to the position of crown prince is only in realization of a long standing scheme to permanently preserve the throne for the Sudari seven and their descendants.
However, recent actions of Mohammed bin Salman, the chief beneficiary of the grand scheme may not only reverse the fortune of the Sudairi seven but that of the entire house of Saud. Behind the bright smile regularly beamed to Western audience is dark stone-cold hearted despot who is prone to the excessive misuse of absolute power. Mohammed bin Salman’s obsession with regional rival, Iran is also playing out in the current proxy wars in Yemen and Syria as well as in the internal politics of Lebanon. As the deputy crown prince saddled with the responsibility of superintending over the ministry of defence, Mohammed bin Salman escalated regional tension when he launched a savage war against the Iranian backed Houthi Shia militia, which is battling the government of Saudi backed Abd Rab Mansur Hadi since 2015thereby turning Yemen into a killing field of thousands of unarmed men, women and children.In a clear case of double standards, Mohamed bin Salman has also continued to provide support for Sunni rebel fighters, in Syria while bombarding Shia Houthi rebels in Yemen; both of whom are fighting for freedom from their respective repressive home governments. Mohammed bin Salman practically ‘’abducted’’ the visiting Lebanese prime minister, Saad Hariri in November 2017 and ‘’forced’’ him to resign for what he considered his inability to wade off Iranian influence in his country. In further demonstration of his resolve to tackle regional rival Iran on multiple fronts,Mohammed bin Salman mobilized other Arab gulf countries and its allies in Africa and Asia to severe diplomatic ties with Qatar for the real reason of its friendly relations with Iran and its allied Shi’ite regional non state actors.
If some of these misadventures of Mohammed bin Salman escaped international scrutiny, the recent slaughter, decapitation and mincing of the body of Saudi born American based Journalist, Jamal Kashoggi, widely believed to be on his orders, sent chill down the spine of millions all over the world. This cruel act of cold blooded murder is even more outrageous because Mohammed bin Salman the butcher in Riyadh turned the Saudi consulate in Istanbul into a slaughter slab in violent violation of the sanctity of Turkey’s diplomatic enclave. The cocktail of naked lies deployed by the Saudi authorities to cover up an obvious state sanctioned act of terrorism is a national shame to the world’s most important Muslim country. With Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia has degenerated into a rogue state.
The numerous atrocious activities of the blood thirsty and power drunk Mohammed bin Salman has brought opprobrium, shame and disgrace to Saudi Arabia while also exposing its inherent contradictions as an absolute monarchical theocracy. With hands soiled from the blood of its genocide and infanticide atrocities all over the Middle East, the house of Saud under the leadership of Mohammed bin Salman has lost spiritual legitimacy as the custodian of the two holy mosques of Mecca and Medina. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia should not take the rest of the world that has thus far tolerated its intolerance and accommodated its unaccommodating stance against people of different faith and race respectively.
To save whatever is left of its battered image, Mohammed bin Salman, the world’s most dangerous man, must be replaced as the crown prince and next in line of succession to the throne of Saudi Arabia by King Salman. This is also an opportunity for the house of Saud to revert to the pseudo-democratic tradition of succession by agnatic seniority, which has guaranteed its stability in the several decades since its founding in 1932. After successfully exorcising the cancer of Mohammed bin Salman, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia must revert to its founding international relations policy of neutrality, end all wars in the Middle East and beyond and assume the role of peace maker in line with its responsibilities as the custodian of holiest sites in Islam. Not to do these is to risk the entire house of Saud going down in eternal infamy with Mohammed bin Salman and the disastrous consequence of a destabilized kingdom of Saudi Arabia.