The coup against the prince

What happened?

On the evening of 21 June 2017, His Highness Prince Muhammad bin Nayef Al Saud was still the Crown Prince, in line with the decision of the Saudi Allegiance Commission, after he received the most votes.

King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud issued a royal decree summoning his Crown Prince, Prince Muhammad bin Nayef, to the Al-Safa Palace in Mecca. This was where the princes would spend their holidays during the month of Ramadan, near the Kaaba. It is also where the Assembly meet to choose who will be the next Crown Prince.

The decree was followed by a call from the office of King Salman bin Abdulaziz urging him to attend, claiming that the meeting was something that could not be postponed. When bin Nayef reached the palace, his guards were prevented from entering King Salman’s office.

The king was not there to receive bin Nayef, neither was one of his representatives. Instead, bin Nayef found Saud Al-Qahtani, the advisor to Muhammad bin Salman, with Turki Al-Sheikh, the head of the so-called entertainment authority that bin Salman later established and one of his advisors. Both were bin Salman’s close friends.

This situation had been orchestrated from the start. Audio recordings had been collected of the members of the Allegiance Commission, in which they agreed to remove bin Nayef and appoint Mohammed bin Salman as Crown Prince instead. It was seen as very insulting to the members of the Allegiance Commission, who were subjected to pressure and coercion to make the recordings.

Al-Qahtani and Al-Sheikh spoke to bin Nayef sharply, using both threats and promises, to ensure bin Nayef would pass the role of Crown Prince to his teenage cousin, bin Salman.

Then the matter took a more brazen turn. Both Al-Qahtani and Al-Sheikh accused bin Nayef of communicating with Qatar, along with false allegations of financial corruption and other accusations. They bargained with him, saying that if he waived the mandate of the covenant in favour of his cousin, King Salman would pardon him.

Bin Nayef was left with little choice. If he refused the ultimatum, the kingdom would face damage to its reputation and a potentially bloody conflict with the teenage prince and his followers. Bin Nayef relinquishing his title, ceding it to Bin Salman until he could be restored to the position.

The decision of the Allegiance Commission

The members of the Allegiance Commission met under the pretext of a consultation on the resignation of Prince bin Nayef and the inauguration of bin Salman, but the truth was otherwise. It was a meeting to pledge allegiance to bin Salman, the Crown Prince, under pressure and coercion. Bin Salman was made Crown Prince with the approval of 31 of the 34 members of the Allegiance Commission.

Three members of the Commission resisted the pressure. They included Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the former Minister of Interior and the brother of King Salman, who completely rejected the decision and refused to participate in the humiliating proceedings.

Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz could not bear what happened on 21 June 2017. Only a few months later he deserted the kingdom, in November 2017. He was fortunate to have fled the kingdom before bin Salman launched a campaign against many other princes and leaders on the grounds of corruption, citing the seizure of public money.

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