Family feuds have been a hallmark of the Saudi royal family, just as they have been of other ruling dynasties of the Gulf countries. In the 1960s, King Saud was deposed by a palace coup engineered by his ambitious brother Faisal. In the 1970s, King Faisal was killed by one of his nephews, who blamed Faisal for the death of his father in the early 1960s. Lately, as the senior princes get older and older, the rivalries have intensified among the various branches, bellies and thighs, on who will be positioned to ascend the throne among the next generation.
In the past two years, Prince Met’eb, son of King Abdullah, and Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef came into focus as the two main rivals among the next generation. Both made several trips to Washington, although Arab comments have indicated that Washington might prefer the more experienced and more “security-minded” Mohammed Bin Nayef.
The recent death of Saudi king Abdullah was immediately followed by a coup, another palace coup. Or maybe the coup was started even before the king passed away.
As soon as Salman was sworn as king, he got rid of the top palace courtiers of Abdullah. He appointed Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef, the interior minister, as a second crown prince. A Crown Prince to the crown prince. He also appointed his own son as defense minister.
The Saudi royals, by nature easily amenable to Byzantine arrangements, may have started a new Byzantine tradition: a crown prince to the crown prince. If inter-family feuds escalate and rivalries intensify, they might start appointing another layer or two of “crown princes”. A crown prince to the crown prince of the crown prince? That is also possible. But will it work for long? Will it avoid an inevitable palace explosion?………..
Mohammed Haider Ghuloum