'Nobody in Royal Family Right Now Is in Position to Challenge MbS' – Scholar

© AP Photo / Cliff Owen / Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis at the Pentagon in Washington, Thursday, March 22, 2018
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis at the Pentagon in Washington, Thursday, March 22, 2018 - Sputnik International
Reuters has recently reported, citing sources close to the royal court that some members of Saudi Arabia’s royal family are aiming to prevent Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman from becoming king.

Dozens of princes and cousins from the Al Saud family are discussing the possibility that after the death of King Salman his younger brother, 76-year old Ahmed bin Abdulaziz could take the throne.

Sputnik has discussed Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with Dr Birol Baskan, a Turkish political scientist.

Sputnik: In your view, how serious are the allegations that the Crown Prince Mohammed may not succeed King Salman? How strong is his position after the Khashoggi affair among other princes?

Birol Baskan: The Saudi Royal family is a big one and it's normal that there are so many contenders for the throne. But it seems that Mohammed bin Salman in the last two years has already secured his position by taking a number of measures including putting a lot of princes who are wealthy in the five-star hotel Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh.

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I guess, he gave them a warning that he is going to be the next king; and I don't think that anyone in the royal family right now is in a position to Challenge Mohammed bin Salman on his succession. He seems to be so secure in power and, I guess, he will most likely succeed his father after the latter's eventual death. Of course, Prince Ahmed is a powerful figure in the royal family, he is one of the Sudairi Clan, the youngest; he's actually the uncle of Mohammed bin Salman.

But I guess he doesn't have any chance at this moment because Mohammed bin Salman is so secure in his position. It is funny because Prince Ahmed returned to Saudi Arabia after getting a secured guarantee from the United States that he's going to be safe in the kingdom. If he needs such a security from the United States, how can he challenge Mohammed bin Salman? I don't think that's going to happen.

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Sputnik: There have been some outspoken critics. Dissident Saudi Prince Khaled bin Farhan al-Saud has actually demanded that King Salman bin Abdulaziz abdicate the throne in favour of his brother, Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, after the Khashoggi incident saying that Salman was rather a tyrant, he uses violence because he lacks political experience; and the people of Saudi Arabia as well as the outside world, as well as members of the royal family themselves, realised that actually, it's Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz who is more qualified. He served as Deputy Minister of Interior for Saudi Arabia from 1975 to 2012; he is a very powerful son of the founding king, he is referred to as the most distinguishable candidate. And, perhaps, also he poses the greatest threat to Mohammed bin Salman's ambitions.

Birol Baskan: I don't challenge those assertions about Prince Ahmed, but I guess he's lost his moment two or three years ago. His younger brother was declared Deputy, not from the same mother, the youngest son of Abdullah. He was the first Crown Prince and Muhammad bin Nayef was the second Crown Prince. Muhammad bin Nayef became the first Crown Prince and Mohammed bin Salman became the second Crown Prince. In all these periods Prince Ahmed didn't figure out as a possible contender for the throne.

A man passes in front of a screen showing Jamal Khashoggi during a commemoration event of Khashoggi's supporters on November 11, 2018 in Istanbul - Sputnik International
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As I said, he is a powerful figure, but there are other powerful figures who seem to be behind Mohammed bin Salman. Mohammed bin Salman's own father-in-law is in the Allegiance Council. He is one of the Sudairi Clan; his mother is from a big Bedouin family. He has his own supporters in the kingdom; and, more importantly, in the last two years, he was running the show in Saudi Arabia. He almost controls all the state institutions.

Despite the gruesome murder of Jamal Khashoggi in the Istanbul Consul, I don't think that his reputation and his legitimacy in the kingdom declined. You should take into account that there's a very serious anti-Muslim brotherhood sentiment, anti-Qatar sentiment among the Saudis.

In the last three or four years the Saudi media propagated this anti-brotherhood and anti-Qatar propaganda so viciously, anyone who is affiliated or seems to be affiliated with Qatar or Muslim Brotherhood has no sympathy in the Saudi public. I guess Mohammed bin Salman also has this public support in the Saudi population, even though there are liberals in Saudi Arabia but they are really a minority.

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I don't see any threat coming to his position from any other Saudi royal. There are only two people who could have challenged Mohammed bin Salman — one of them is the son of the former King, Abdullah who was the Head of the National Guard; and the other one is his cousin Muhammad bin Nayef, the son of former Minister of Interior. Mohammed bin Salman managed to pacify both of them. This is a big feat and it's also a big feat to clean up all the royals into Ritz-Carlton and keep them there for months and confiscate some of their allowances. If this is not a show of power, I don't know what is.

President Donald Trump shows a chart highlighting arms sales to Saudi Arabia during a meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office of the White House, Tuesday, March 20, 2018, in Washington - Sputnik International
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Khashoggi murder is a big flap on Mohammed bin Salman's future. I'm really wondering how he is going to manage this, but I don't think it's going to undermine his popularity and legitimacy in the kingdom. The US seems to be very strongly behind Mohammed bin Salman. And, in any case, even if the whole world is against Mohammed bin Salman, how are you going to replace him? Will the US or Europe invade the kingdom? As long as the Saudis want to keep him in power, what can the rest of the world do about it?

Views and opinions expressed in the article are those of Birol Baskan and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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