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Tuesday, May 29

Rumors continue about whether MbS was killed, wounded, etc. during April 21 palace ruckus

I can't believe I'm spending so much of my time on this story. For the two earlier installments at my blog, see here and here. Now to the latest installment. From FARS -- that's Iran's state news agency -- on May 28:
US, British Sources Confirm Saudi Crown Prince's Injury
TEHRAN (FNA)- An Arab media outlet quoted US sources as saying that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been wounded in the April 21 coup and shootings in his palace.
The Arabic-language Sawt al-Arab news website [Egypt] quoted the American sources as saying that the Saudi crown prince has been injured during the shooting incident in al-Khazami region, adding that he was taken out of the scene with a helicopter.
According to the website, although the Saudi media have released a number of images of bin Salman after the incident whose date cannot be confirmed, it is not yet clear if he has been treated or is still hospitalized for his injuries. [...]
Let me interrupt FARS to present a Reuters report dated April 28 -- that's a week after a ruckus at the royal palace that may or may not have been a coup attempt or just palace guards shooting at a toy drone that strayed:
Saudi Arabia launches multi-billion dollar entertainment resort by Marwa Rashad, Stephen Kalin 
QIDDIYA, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) - Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attended the ground-breaking ceremony on Saturday of a vast entertainment resort that is at the heart of an ambitious strategy to open the economy and ease social restrictions.
Qiddiya, about an hour’s drive from Riyadh, is being built on a 334 sq km (8,400-acre) site, making it 2-1/2 times the size of Disney World. [...]
I'm a little ticked off at FARS for not doing their homework. Here's a picture of MbS along with his father, the king, at the ceremony, which Pakistan Today posted.

Now does Sawt al-Arab want to argue with Marwa Rashad, who was very likely at the ceremony, and who routinely reports for Reuters from Saudi Arabia on news about the kingdom?

As to the American sources -- were these unnamed sources 'officials' or a friend of a friend of somebody's next-door neighbor in Cairo? 

As to the British sources mentioned in the FARS headline: they're quoting The Observer, a British newspaper, whose source on the story is -- wait for it -- a Pakistani news site quoting an Iranian newspaper:
[On May 23] Iran's Kayhan newspaper claimed: 'At least two bullets have hit bin Salman in April 21 clashes in Riyadh and it is even possible that he is dead.' The paper questioned why the crown prince was not pictured when US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo paid his first visit to Saudi Arabia Riyadh in late April - but King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir were pictured.
'There is plenty of evidence to suggest that the absence of nearly 30 days of Muhammad bin Salman , the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, is due to an incident which is being hidden from the public,' Kayhan claimed.
But now the prince's press spokesman has tweeted pictures of him chairing a meeting of the Council for Economic and Development Affairs. [...]
It's within the realm of possibility that there was an armed attack on the palace on April 21 and the subsequent night (remember there was an unconfirmed report about more gunfire around the palace on April 22.) If such occurred and the prince was at the palace at the time, it's possible that he was wounded. Yet in that case obviously by April 28th MbS was recovered enough to take part in a very public ceremony attended by many people -- and to be standing for the photographers.

I set aside what happened at the palace on April 21/22 because the only people who know the truth were directly involved in the incident(s). But I can understand the great interest and ongoing speculation and rumors about the incidents. I myself continue to pay attention to the story.

However, to claim that MbS hasn't been seen in public since before the April 21 ruckus is lazy reporting, or a news website just trying to wring clicks out of the story. C'mon. He's been seen, and while other photos of him might not be verified as to when they were taken, the one of him at Qiddiya is as verified as it can get by a mainstream news organization. 

As to why he didn't meet with Mike Pompeo, I myself would try to avoid meeting with Pompeo, but moving along he had his reasons although, granted, very influential people aren't allowed to have reasons that the public can't figure out.  

The one thing I would take from this royal mess is that MbS could simply be keeping a low profile after his global media blitz if there is truth to the rumor that his father will soon step down from the throne, perhaps as early as June. In that case MbS would be wise to make himself as scarce as possible until he's king. This would be particularly the case given claims that powerful members of the Saudi royal family and among the country's security forces do not want him as king. (1)

However, any such disgruntled Saudis could well decide to go along with MbS out of justifiable concern that a blowup in the line of succession would be very damaging to Saudi Arabian interests at this time. One of those interests is the Aramco IPO, which Oil Price reported on May 25 seems to have been pushed forward from the second half of 2018 to maybe sometime in 2019.

The need is to project to powerful governments and the global financial community that Saudi Arabia is very stable and would remain stable with MbS as king. As to whether it really is stable enough to weather MbS as king -- that is a matter of debate, which I'm not qualified to analyze.

But even if the country is as steady as a rock, down through history there's always a great amount of palace intrigue when the time for a new king is drawing near. Heck, this is true even for a democracy when political power changes hands.

There are long-running rumors that King Salman suffers from dementia, although he looks to me to be pretty much in control of his mental faculties. If I'm correct, then given all the palace intrigue at this juncture, he might decide to stay on the throne longer than he'd wanted. This would give MbS more time to solidify his own position.

Just my two cents.  

All right. That's enough for this installment from the rumor mills.


1) See the Observer report and links about the claims or go directly to the May 21 Middle East Eye articles here and here. The FARS report I quoted above also rehashes the MEE articles, one of which I discussed not long ago on my blog. ) 

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