Saudi Arabia engulfed in crisis after arrest of princes, dismissal of ministers

Alwaght– A crisis in unfolding in Saudi Arabia after Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman ordered the arrest of nearly a dozen princes of dismissal of a number of senior ministers.

Among the casualties are one of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent businessmen and a former finance minister.

Billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who owns investment firm Kingdom Holding 4280.SE, and former finance minister Ibrahim al-Assaf had been detained on alleged corruption charges.

King Salman also appointed two new ministers on Saturday to key security and economic posts, removing one of the royal family’s most prominent members as head of the National Guard.

Prince Miteb bin Abdullah was replaced as minister of the National Guard by Khaled bin Ayyaf, while Economy Minister Adel Fakieh was removed in favor of his deputy Mohammed al-Tuwaijri, according to a royal decree carried by state-run media.

The dismissal of Meteb bin Abdullah came shortly after a missile attack by Yemen’s Army   on Riyadh’s King Khaled International Airport.

Consolidating power

Prince Miteb, the preferred son of the late King Abdullah, was once thought to be a leading contender for the throne before the unexpected rise of Prince Mohammed two years ago.

The Cabinet reshuffle helped to consolidate Prince Mohammed’s control of the kingdom’s security institutions, which had long been headed by separate powerful branches of the ruling family.

Saudi King Salman announced late on Saturday the creation of a new anti-corruption committee chaired by his son Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television said the body had detained 11 princes, four current ministers and tens of former ministers.

The committee is looking into the 2009 floods that devastated parts of Jeddah, as well as the government’s response to the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus outbreak.

The reports come just months after Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud replaced his nephew Mohammed bin Nayef with his son Mohammed bin Salman as the kingdom’s crown prince.

Opposition to bin Salman rise

King Salman, now 81, had already sidelined other senior members of the royal family to prevent any opposition to the crown prince, 32-year-old Prince Mohammed. There are unconfirmed reports that King Salman plans to abdicate to his son thus necessitating need to nip in the bud any potential opposition to his ascension.

Since his father’s ascension to the throne, Crown Prince Mohammed has straddled across all levers of power in the kingdom.

While Bin Salman is currently next in line for the throne, there are doubts he will have a smooth ride to become king. The simmering internal rivalries within the royal palace will continue to jeopardize his ambitions. In August unconfirmed reports indicated that bin Salman has escaped an assassination attempt at one of the royal family palaces in Jeddah.

Powder keg

In October, gunman drove up to a gate of the king’s palace in the Saudi city of Jeddah and opened fire, killing at least two security guards and wounding three others before being shot dead. The palace, where the royal family conducts official business during the summer months, is located next to the King Abdulaziz Road and Andalus Road on the waterfront of the Red Sea coastal city.

King Salman was outside the kingdom on a state visit to Russia. The attacks indicate that the troubled Saudi royal family is a powder keg that might explode any time and engulf the kingdom in a major crisis heralding the downfall of the Al Saud dynasty.