On June 20, Mohammed bin Nayef, a powerful figure in Saudi Arabia’s security apparatus for the past two decades and the next in line to the throne, was summoned to meet Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz on the fourth floor of the royal palace in Mecca.
There, according to a source close to bin Nayef, the king ordered him to step aside in favor of the king’s favorite son, Mohammed bin Salman.
The reason: An addiction to painkilling drugs was clouding bin Nayef’s judgment.
“The king came to meet bin Nayef and they were alone in the room. He told him: ‘I want you to step down, you didn’t listen to the advice to get treatment for your addiction, which dangerously affects your decisions,’” the source said.
The new details about the extraordinary meeting between the Saudi king and bin Nayef that touched off the de facto palace coup help to explain the events that are reshaping the leadership of the world’s biggest oil exporting nation.
A senior Saudi official said the account was totally “unfounded and untrue in addition to being nonsense.”
“The story depicted here is a complete fantasy worthy of Hollywood,” the official said in a statement.
The official said bin Nayef had been removed in the national interest and had not experienced any “pressure or disrespect.”
However, sources with knowledge of the situation said that the Saudi king was determined to elevate his son to be heir to the throne and used bin Nayef’s drug problem as a pretext to push him aside.
Three royal insiders, four Arab officials with links to the ruling house of Al Saud and diplomats in the region told reporters that bin Nayef was surprised to be ordered to step aside.
The sources said bin Nayef did not expect to be usurped by the often impulsive bin Salman, who bin Nayef considered to have made a number of policy blunders, such as his handling of the Yemen conflict and cutting financial benefits to civil servants.
The high-stakes power grab has placed sweeping powers in the hands of the 32-year-old bin Salman and appears designed to speed his accession to the throne.
Should he get the job, the young prince would preside over a kingdom facing tough times from depressed oil prices, the conflict in Yemen, rivalry with an emboldened Iran and a major diplomatic crisis in the Persian Gulf.
In the hours that followed the meeting in which bin Nayef was dismissed, the House of Al Saud’s Allegiance Council, comprising the ruling family’s senior members, were informed of a letter written in the name of the king.
Drafted by palace advisers to bin Salman, it said bin Nayef had a medical condition — drug addiction — and “we have been trying for more than two years to persuade him to seek treatment, but to no avail.”
“Because of this dangerous situation we see that he should be relieved of his position and that Mohammed bin Salman be appointed in his place,” the Saudi source close to bin Nayef quoted excerpts of the letter as saying.
The letter was read over the telephone to members of the council, while bin Nayef was kept isolated in a room all night, his mobile phone removed and cut off from contact with his aides.
Envoys were sent to council members to get their signatures. All but three of 34 signed. The coup had worked.
Calls by council members who backed bin Nayef’s removal were recorded and played to him by a palace adviser to demonstrate the strength of the forces against him and to discourage any urge the 57-year-old crown prince might have to resist.
At dawn bin Nayef gave up. He told a palace adviser that he was ready to see the king. The meeting was short. Bin Nayef agreed to step down and signed a document to that effect.
With bin Salman’s sudden ascent, there is speculation among diplomats and Saudi and Arab officials that King Salman is poised to abdicate in favor of his son.
Quoting a witness at the palace, one source said King Salman this month pre-recorded a statement in which he announces the transfer of the throne to his son.
The announcement could be broadcast at any time, perhaps as soon as September, the source said.
FRENCH AID: Paris has sent a navy ship and aircraft from Reunion Island with some pollution control equipment, but rough seas are spreading the oil spill The operator of a Japanese bulk carrier which ran aground off Mauritius in the Indian Ocean yesterday apologized for a major oil spill, which officials and environmentalists say is creating an ecological disaster, as police prepared to board the ship. The MV Wakashio, operated by Mitsui OSK Lines, struck the reef on Mauritius’ southeast coast on July 25. “We apologize profusely and deeply for the great trouble we have caused,” Mitsui OSK Lines executive vice president Akihiko Ono said at a news conference in Tokyo. The company would “do everything in their power to resolve the issue,” he said. At least 1,000 tonnes of
They stand as eyesores to most passers-by and potential public health risks to authorities, decaying buildings wrapped in tangles of exposed wire, studded with protruding leaky plastic pipes, vegetation billowing from cracks and terraces where particulates from polluted air have accumulated over time. With skyscrapers and ultramodern developments on every side, some of these “nail houses” are also sitting on land worth millions of dollars in Shenzhen’s inferno of a property market, where new-unit and second-hand home prices rival London. In battles over land and development, the nail house phenomenon has become widespread throughout China over the past two decades, with owners
A cat that went missing on a family holiday on the shores of Loch Lomond, Scotland, has been identified 12 years later. Tortoiseshell-and-white Georgie spent October half term in 2008 with her owners at the Rowardennan campsite, but vanished as they were due to return home to Greater Manchester, England. After a search of the site the Davies family departed without Georgie, hoping the three-year-old microchipped feline would be located by someone. Over the intervening 12 years, she remained close to the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park site, being fed and cared for by campsite staff and holidaymakers. After the COVID-19 pandemic hit and lockdown
An Italian alpine resort on Friday remained on high alert over fears that a vast chunk of a glacier on the slopes of the Mont Blanc massif could plummet in high temperatures. “No one gets through! No cars, bikes or pedestrians,” was the message at a checkpoint where an automatic barrier and two guards blocked the small road snaking up into a lush valley below the Planpincieux glacier, near the town of Courmayeur and the Italian-French border. The blockade has largely been greeted with contempt by the locals, one of whom said: “It’s a joke.” The huge ice block measuring around 500,000 cubic