Saudi prince calls for King Salman to be replaced

Letters written by a member of the House of Saud claim the king is in poor health and is being exploited by his crown princes.

Neil Churchill September 30, 2015

The Saudi Arabian monarchy is facing unprecedented calls to change its leadership from members of its own ruling family, following a turbulent six months for the Kingdom. 

Speaking to The Guardian newspaper, a senior Saudi prince, grandson of the country’s founder Abdulaziz Ibn Saud, has said that there is ‘disquiet’ among the ruling family at the leadership of King Salman. 

The prince, who spoke under anonymity for security reasons, said there is also unrest among the public. 

“The king is not in a stable condition and in reality the son of the king [Mohammed bin Salman] is ruling the kingdom,” the prince said. “So four or possibly five of my uncles will meet soon to discuss the letters. They are making a plan with a lot of nephews and that will open the door. A lot of the second generation is very anxious. 

“The public are [sic] also pushing this very hard, all kinds of people, tribal leaders. They say you have to do this or the country will go to disaster.” 

The prince wrote two letters earlier this month calling for King Salman and his crown princes, Mohammad bin Salman (below) and Mohammad bin Nayef, to be replaced. 

The letters, which have circulated among the royal family, claim that King Salman is suffering from dementia and is being manipulated by his two anointed successors. 

“It is no secret that the most serious problem in his health is the mental side, which has made the king fully subject to the control of his son Mohammad,” said one of the letters. 

“How have we accepted to enter into uncalculated military risks... And how did we accept that our fate depends on the whims of adolescents and the visions of the reckless? 

“And how have we accepted the massive bleeding of state funds, including more than doubling spending in the past years?”

Mohammad bin Salman is the 30-year old defence minister, head of the council for economic development affairs and is in charge of state oil firm Aramco. He is the deputy crown prince with the unofficial nickname ‘Reckless’. 

Mohammad bin Nayef (below) is the 56-year old interior minister and head of the haj committee. He is the king’s nephew and as crown prince he is the next in line to the throne. 

The letters accuse both men of using King Salman’s seal to make major political decisions on his behalf, including the war on Yemen, and call on the 13 remaining sons of the country’s founder Ibn Saud to stage a coup. 

“They have to isolate the powerless King Salman, the excessively arrogant, reckless Crown Prince Mohammad bin Nayef [and] the one who devastates the homeland, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.” 

It has been a difficult period for the Kingdom with the plummeting oil price, a predicted budget deficit in excess of $107 billion, its continuing war with neighbouring Yemen and the recent Mecca crane and crush disasters that killed a combined total of over 1,000 people – all areas that are overseen by the two crown princes. 

A third letter written by another prince and grandson of Ibn Saud has also come to light, obtained by The Times newspaper. It claims that most members of the royal family were in favour of the two letters, and that they were glad ‘someone took the initiative’. 

According to The Times, Ahmed bin Abdulaziz al Saud is the favoured candidate to replace King Salman, as he is liked by ‘90 per cent of the royal family’.