Alwaght- Ever since King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud passed away, maybe even before then, members of the Saudi royal family have been vying for position and control in a power struggle that political observers see as the main reason behind the Mina tragedy in which at least 2,000 pilgrims were killed and hundreds of others injured.
With the rise of his half-brother Salman to the crown, the rivalry between Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Nayef began to crystallize as a segment of Saudi Arabia’s new political saga.
The developing power struggle within the house of Al-Saud is presumed to be grounds for Mohammad bin Salman to plot against Bin Nayef.
Before the Hajj season, there were rumors that Salman was planning to relinquish power and appoint his son instead. However, there is one person standing in the way and that is crown prince Bin Nayef, whom Mohammad Bin Salman, now notorious for waging a deadly war on neighboring Yemen, needs him out of the way to ascend to power.
This has led critics to believe that the deputy crown prince and defense minister is striving to oust crown Prince Bin Nayef. The possibility of a coup d’état is laid on the table before the aspiring prince.
The competition has turned fiercer and even escalated to a conflict between the two. Bin Nayef, on the one hand, has formed a secret investigation team to look into the mistakes of the war on Yemen. On the other hand, Bin Salman is seeking to sow the seeds of mistrust among Saudi officials toward the crown prince.
Yet all the cards have not been revealed in this game. Removing Mohammad Bin Nayef may be done subtly. To avoid the label of a coup d’etat, Riyadh will have to justify his ouster in front of international and public opinion and that’s why the interior minister’s failure to manage the Hajj pilgrimage might be used to save face.
Crown Prince Nayef now has a black mark on his record. Two Hajj season tragedies, the crane accident and the deadly stampede, have put Nayef between a rock and a hard place.
Both incidents are perceived as strong indicators that Nayef, who is responsible for the Hajj events as interior minister, is unqualified when it comes to managing an annual occasion let alone leading an oil-rich regional power like Saudi Arabia.
To back these reports, several media outlets circulated news and video footage implicating Nayef in the Mina calamity after his convoy forced the closure of two main roads leading to “Stoning the Devil” rite place.
Whether Bin Nayef or Bin Salman is crown prince, both have shown little respect for the sanctity of human life, one with a bloody war on Yemen and a crackdown on Bahraini protesters, the other with disregard to 2 million pilgrims. As the two races for power, it seems Al Saud princes will stop at nothing, not even the lives of innocent people, to realize their aspirations.
By Al Waght