Last week, through a series of decrees, Saudi King Salman promoted his favorite son, Mohammed bin Salman, to crown prince, demoting his nephew Mohammed bin Nayef, 57, who had been interior minister and counterterrorism czar as well as crown prince, and removing him from the royal line of succession. Now, Nayef has been confined to his palace in Jidda, as a precautionary measure to protect Mohammed bin Salman, 31, from internal challenge, The New York Times reports, citing four current and former U.S. officials and Saudis close to the royal family.
A senior official at the Foreign Ministry told the Times that the accounts of Nayef being confined to his palace are "baseless and false," but the Times' sources say the restrictions are not only real, but also extend to other family members:
The restrictions have also been imposed on Mohammed bin Nayef's daughters, according to a former American official who maintains ties to Saudi royals. A married daughter was told that her husband and their child could leave their home while she had to stay, the former official said. One Saudi close to the royal family said 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 After the announcement, Mohammed bin Nayef returned to his palace in Jidda to find that his trusted guards had been replaced by guards loyal to Mohammed bin Salman, according to the Saudi and a former American official. Since then, he has been prevented from leaving the palace. [The New York Times]
To demonstrate that the changing of the line of succession is going smoothly, Saudi state media has been replaying this video of Mohammed bin Salman kissing the ring of Nayef, who wishes him well:
The palace arrest suggests that not everyone in the royal family agrees with King Salman's changes, and that the new crown prince believes public appearances might foment unrest. "It's an indication that [Mohammed bin Salman] does not want any opposition," a senior U.S. official tells the Times. "He doesn't want any rear-guard action within the family. He wants a straight elevation without any dissent — not that [Mohammed bin Nayaf] was plotting anything anyway." Peter Weber