Report: Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Scrambles Military Amid Coup Fears: ずくなしの冷や水


Report: Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Scrambles Military Amid Coup Fears

Report: Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Scrambles Military Amid Coup Fears
TEHRAN (FNA)- A new report announced that Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MbS) has scrambled the Saudi military fearing a coup by some royals to topple him.

The Saudi army personnel and assets had been transferred from the kingdom's Eastern and Western provinces to the capital Riyadh in a pre-emptive move to prevent a putsch while MbS is in Argentina for the G20 summit, Al-Khaleej Online reported.

The report comes at a time that the heir to the Saudi throne faces widespread criticism over the deadly war on Yemen and the brutal killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Turkey.

Dissident Saudi Prince Khalid bin Farhan Al Saud, who lives in exile in Germany, said that a royal coup was in the offing and that an opposition group had been set up to unseat the crown prince.

He told the al-Khaleej Online that the crown prince's style of government is "ignorant and delusional".

If the Saudi royal family and "other countries" decide to move against King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and bin Salman, "a wave of violence is likely to occur as the Saudi kingdom is reigned by employing ignorant and barbaric methods", he added.

"I hope that there will be a soft coup that overthrows the deep state and takes controls of prominent security institutions, and then sacks the Crown Prince and the king," he stated.

Additionally, a well-known Saudi online activist, who goes by the nickname of @mujtahidd on Twitter, told al-Khaleej Online that “had Prince Ahmed announced… the removal of King Salman from power, 95% of the family would have pledged allegiance to him on the spot”.

He was referring to Saudi Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, King Salman's brother and bin Salman's uncle, who was said to be afraid to return to the kingdom since he had made public comments critical of the crown prince.

Sources close to Prince Ahmed stated in late October that he had flown back to Riyadh from London.

“Since the Khashoggi affair, there have been rumors that some members of the royal family had conversations amongst themselves about the need to change the country’s leadership or at least it’s leadership structure,” Gerald Fierstein, the senior vice president of the Middle East Institute in Washington, told The Media Line.

“It would not be surprising if indeed some type of conversation got to MbS to make him question the commitment of some members of the family to his leadership,” he noted.

Furthermore, Bruce Riedel, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, emphasized that bin Salman had "alienated many members of the royal family during his Ritz Carleton shakedown".

He was referring to the arrests of hundreds of influential Saudi businessmen and members of the royal family in November 2017 in an alleged “anti-corruption campaign” spearheaded by bin Salman. The detainees were held at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Riyadh.

“Anytime bin Salman is out of the country, he is more vulnerable and if he is treated as a pariah abroad, it increases his vulnerability,” Riedel told The Media Line.

CIA Intercepts Underpin Assessment MbS Targeted Khashoggi
TEHRAN (FNA)- Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MbS) sent at least 11 messages to his closest adviser, who oversaw the team that killed journalist Jamal Khashoggi, in the hours before and after the journalist’s death in October, according to a highly classified CIA assessment.

The Saudi leader also in August 2017 had told associates that if his efforts to persuade Khashoggi to return to Saudi Arabia weren’t successful, “we could possibly lure him outside Saudi Arabia and make arrangements”, according to the assessment, a communication that it states “seems to foreshadow the Saudi operation launched against Khashoggi”, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The CIA last month concluded that MbS had likely ordered Khashoggi’s killing, and US President Donald Trump and leaders in Congress were briefed on intelligence gathered by the spy agency. The American president afterward questioned the CIA’s conclusion about the prince, saying that “maybe he did; and maybe he didn’t”.

The previously unreported excerpts reviewed by The WSJ state that the CIA has “medium-to-high confidence” that MbS “personally targeted” Khashoggi and “probably ordered his death”. It also notes that “to be clear, we lack direct reporting of the Crown Prince issuing a kill order”.

The electronic messages sent by MbS were to Saud al-Qahtani, according to the CIA. Qahtani supervised the 15-man team that killed Khashoggi and, during the same period, was also in direct communication with the team’s leader in Istanbul, the assessment said. The content of the messages between MbS and Qahtani isn’t known, the document added. It doesn’t say in what form the messages were sent.

It is unclear from the excerpts whether the 2017 comments regarding luring Khashoggi to a third country cited in the assessment are from MbS directly, or from someone else describing his remarks.

Saudi Arabia has acknowledged Khashoggi was murdered in the consulate. But it has denied MbS had any role and blamed the operation on rogue operatives. The Saudi Public Prosecutor’s office last month announced charges against 11 Saudis in connection with Khashoggi’s death, saying it would seek the death penalty in five cases. The office didn't release their names.

The US Treasury Department in mid-November slapped sanctions on 17 Saudis whom it linked to the killing. But Trump, in a statement days later, said he intended to maintain strong relations with bin Salman because of Saudi Arabia’s opposition to Iran, its investments in the US and its role in the oil market.

The Trump administration’s posture has angered many in Congress, and the intercepts and intelligence gathered by the CIA may complicate Trump’s efforts to maintain relations with MbS, the de facto leader one of the world’s biggest oil producers. The two are among the world’s leaders meeting this weekend in Buenos Aires for a summit of Group of 20 nations.

Earlier this week, the Senate voted to begin consideration of a resolution to withdraw US support for a Saudi-led military coalition fighting in Yemen, with senators venting their frustration over Trump’s reluctance to hold MbS responsible for Khashoggi’s death.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who met with senators Wednesday to try to forestall the resolution, has said that he had read every piece of US. intelligence regarding Khashoggi’s killing and that the agency didn’t find a so-called smoking gun, telling reporters, “There is no direct reporting connecting the crown prince to the order to murder Jamal Khashoggi."reporters.

The judgment on bin Salman’s likely culpability, the CIA assessment says, is based on the crown prince’s personal focus on Khashoggi, his tight control over the Saudi operatives sent to Istanbul to kill him, “and his authorizing some of the same operators to violently target other opponents”.

Qahtani has led bin Salman’s efforts to crack down on dissent internally and abroad. He is one of the 17 sanctioned by the Treasury.

After this article’s initial publication online, a Saudi official, responding to an earlier request for comment to the Saudi Embassy in Washington, said, “HRH the Crown Prince communicates regularly with various senior officials within the Royal Court on different matters. At no time did HRH correspond with any Saudi officials in any government entity on harming Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi citizen. We continue to categorically reject any accusations based on speculations.”

A CIA spokesman declined to comment on the report. A White House official said Friday the White House doesn’t comment on intelligence matters. Qahtani didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Trump last week said the CIA only had “feelings” about bin Salman’s involvement, a statement that irked current and former US intelligence officials. US intelligence assessments are rarely black-and-white, often relying on fragments of information gathered clandestinely.

The highly classified CIA assessment adds that the Saudi team sent to kill Khashoggi was assembled from MbS’ top security units in the Royal Guard and in an organization run by Qahtani, the Center for Studies and Media Affairs at the Royal Court, the Saudi royal court’s media department.

“We assess it is highly unlikely this team of operators…carried out the operation without Muhammad bin Salman’s authorization,” it notes.

The document states that Qahtani “explicitly requested the Crown Prince’s permission when he pursued other sensitive operations in 2015, which reflects the Crown Prince’s command and control expectations”.

Qahtani was fired by King Salman, the crown prince’s father, in the aftermath of the murder. But Qahtani informally continued some of his former functions as royal-court adviser, such as issuing directives to local journalists and brokering meetings for the crown prince, according to people familiar with the matter.

A US official announced that the US government has recently developed information that under Qahtani, personnel from the Center for Studies and Media Affairs have for two years engaged in the kidnapping−sometimes overseas−and detention and harsh interrogation of Saudis whom the monarchy perceives as a threat. The interrogations have led to repeated physical harm to the detainees, the official said.

The CIA assessment noted that since 2015 bin Salman “has ordered Qahtani and CSMARC to target his opponents domestically and abroad, sometimes violently”.

Five employees of the center were involved in the Khashoggi operation, according to the assessment. All five were also involved in abusive treatment of prominent Saudis detained at Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton hotel in the fall of 2017 as part of what the Saudi government described as an anticorruption drive, it noted.
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