Srinagar, Jun 29
The recently deposed crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Nayef, has been barred from leaving the kingdom and confined to his palace in the coastal city of Jeddah, according to four current and former American officials and Saudis close to the royal family, NY Times reported yesterday.
The new restrictions on the man who until last week was next in line to the throne and ran the kingdom’s powerful internal security services sought to limit any potential opposition for the new crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, 31, the officials told the newspaper on the condition of anonymity.
It was unclear how long the restrictions would remain in place, the report said.
Howver, a senior official in the Saudi Foreign Ministry reached by telephone on Wednesday night described the account as “baseless and false,” the report said.
The Saudi monarch, King Salman, shook up the line of succession last week with a string of royal decrees that promoted his son, Mohammed bin Salman, to crown prince and removed Mohammed bin Nayef, 57, from the line of succession.
The elder prince was also replaced as interior minister by a 33-year-old nephew, marking the end of a career that had won him deep respect in Washington and other foreign capitals for his work dismantling Al Qaeda’s networks inside the kingdom after a string of deadly bombings a decade ago, the report said.
“But his elevation effectively ended the political prospects of many older princes, some of whom consider him rash, power hungry and inexperienced. Prince Mohammed also serves as the kingdom’s defence minister, putting him in charge of Saudi Arabia’s costly military intervention against the Houthi rebels in neighbouring Yemen,” the newspaper said.
Saudi state news media, however, has gone out of its way to portray a smooth transition, repeatedly broadcasting a video showing Mohammed bin Salman deferentially kissing the hand of Mohammed bin Nayef, who wishes him well.
But the restrictions placed on the elder prince suggest fear that some members of the sprawling royal family are upset with the change, and that public appearances by him could exacerbate such sentiments, the report said.
“(Muhammad bin Salman) has been such a great friend and partner of the U.S., we would not want to see him treated inelegantly or indecorously,” the senior American official told the newspaper.
Since Mohammed bin Nayef’s removal from the line of succession, several veteran American counterterrorism and intelligence officials who had strong relationships with him have privately expressed outrage at his treatment, the report said, adding but they were wary of speaking publicly given the strong support for King Salman and his son from President Trump and other top aides, including Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law.
“Mohammed bin Salman dined with Trump at the White House in March. That cleared the way for Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia, where he declared the Saudis key allies in combating terrorism and extremism,” the report said.
The restrictions have also been imposed on Mohammed bin Nayef’s daughters, according to a former American official who maintains ties to Saudi royals, the report claimed. A married daughter was told that her husband and their child could leave their home while she had to stay, the former official told the newspaper.
One Saudi close to the royal family told the newspaper the new restrictions had been imposed almost immediately after Mohammed bin Salman’s promotion.
After the announcement, Mohammed bin Nayef returned to his palace in Jeddah to find that his trusted guards had been replaced by guards loyal to Mohammed bin Salman, according to the Saudi and a former American official, the report said. Since then, he has been prevented from leaving the palace.
Another former American official with close contacts with the royal family confirmed that Mohammed bin Nayef had been barred from leaving the kingdom, but said he had not heard that he had been restricted to his palace, the report said.