Rivalry within Saudi royal family grows, targeting crown prince

Published 04.10.2019 02:03

Some members of Saudi Arabia's ruling family and business elite have expressed frustration with the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), the country's crown prince and next in line to the throne, following the largest-ever attack on the kingdom's oil infrastructure last month. It has sparked concern among several prominent branches of the ruling al-Saud family, which numbers around 10,000 members, about the crown prince's ability to defend and lead the world's largest oil exporter, according to a senior foreign diplomat and five sources with ties to the royals and business elite, as reported by Reuters.

The attack has also fanned discontent among some in elite circles who believe the crown prince has sought too tight a grip on power, the sources said. Some of these people said the event has also fueled criticism among those who believe he has pursued an overly aggressive stance towards Iran. "There is a lot of resentment" about the crown prince's leadership, said one of the sources, a member of the Saudi elite with royal connections. "How were they not able to detect the attack?" This person added that some people in elite circles are saying they have "no confidence" in the crown prince, an assertion echoed by the four other sources and the senior diplomat.

Tensions flared in the Persian Gulf between the U.S. and Iran, along with regional allies, after the drone attacks on Aramco oil facilities in eastern Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has fully restored oil output after attacks on its facilities last month and is now focused on the listing of Saudi Aramco, Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said. The kingdom's oil production capacity now stands at 11.3 million barrels per day, he told a Moscow energy conference yesterday, adding: "We all rose to the challenge."

The U.S. has had a close relationship with Saudi Arabia, which it views as a bulwark against Iran's ambitions in the region. The kingdom and its allies have been emboldened by President Donald Trump's unwavering dedication to pressuring Iran's leadership, which includes his decision to pull out of a nuclear agreement with Iran and re-imposing punishing sanctions to cripple its economy.

Saudi Arabia is one of the major buyers of U.S.-made weapons, and the U.S. provides intelligence and aerial refueling support to the Saudi-led coalition fighting rebels in Yemen. U.S. lawmakers, angered by the Oct. 2 assassination and dismemberment of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, have looked to suspend negotiations with Saudi Arabia on a nuclear technology-sharing agreement and have called for halting arms sales to Riyadh. President Trump, nevertheless, maintains that the order of $110 billion in weapons that support 500,000 U.S. jobs should not be put in peril. Last year, Trump made an undiplomatic remark about the U.S.' close ally Saudi Arabia, saying he warned King Salman he would not last in power "for two weeks" without the backing of the U.S. military. Riyadh has worked to cultivate warm relations with Trump after having rocky moments with former President Barack Obama. Saudi Arabia welcomed Trump for his first overseas trip as president. Trump's administration, particularly his son-in-law Jared Kushner, has sought a close relationship with MBS.

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