Members of Saudi Arabia’s ruling family are agitating to prevent Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman from becoming king after the international uproar over the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, sources close to the royal court told Reuters news agency.
Senior US officials, meanwhile, have indicated to Saudi advisers in recent weeks they would support Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz – who was deputy interior minister for nearly 40 years – as a potential successor to King Salman, according to Saudi sources with direct knowledge of the consultations.
Amid international outrage over Khashoggi’s murder, dozens of princes and cousins from powerful branches of the Al Saud family want to see a change in the line of succession, but will not act while King Salman – the crown prince’s 82-year-old father – is still alive, sources said.
They recognise the king is unlikely to turn against his favourite son, the report added.
Rather, they are discussing the possibility with other family members that after the king’s death, Prince Ahmed, 76, uncle of the crown prince, could take the throne, according to the sources.
Prince Ahmed, King Salman’s only surviving full brother, would have the support of family members, the security apparatus, and some Western powers, one of the Saudi sources said.
Prince Ahmed returned to Riyadh in October after two months abroad.
During the trip, he appeared to criticise the Saudi leadership while responding to protesters outside a London residence chanting for the downfall of the Al Saud dynasty. He was one of only three people on the Allegiance Council, made up of the ruling family’s senior members, who opposed bin Salman becoming crown prince in 2017, Saudi sources said at the time.
Neither Prince Ahmed nor his representatives could be reached for comment. Officials in Riyadh did not immediately respond to requests from Reuters for comment on succession issues.
The House of Saud is made up of hundreds of princes. Unlike typical European monarchies, there is no automatic succession from father to eldest son. Instead the kingdom’s tribal traditions dictate the king and senior family members from each branch select the heir they consider fittest to lead.
Saudi sources said they were confident Prince Ahmed would not change or reverse any of the social or economic reforms enacted by the crown prince, would honour existing military procurement contracts, and would restore the unity of the family.
However, one senior US official said the White House is in no hurry to distance itself from the Crown Prince bin Salman despite pressure from lawmakers and the CIA’s assessment he ordered Khashoggi’s murder, though that could change once Trump gets a definitive report on the killing from the intelligence community.
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