LONDON – Signs of a potential rift within the ruling dynasty of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia were apparent this week following comments by a Saudi prince that the horrific violence wrought on the people of Yemen should be blamed on the “king and his heir apparent,” a reference to Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, often referred to by the initials MBS.
In videotaped footage posted online, the high-ranking Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz al-Saud – one of the last of the sons of founding monarch, Ibn Saud – can be heard responding to protesters in London with rare critical comments that hint at a broader disunity in the ranks of Saudi royals.
In his comments, which were transcribed by Qatari-owned, U.K.-based news outlet Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, the 73-year-old prince said:
What does the Al Saud family have to do with your chants? We have nothing to do with what is happening [in Yemen]. There are certain officials responsible for the state of war in Yemen, … such as the king and his heir apparent … In Yemen and elsewhere, our hope is that the war ends today before tomorrow.”
According to regional reports, the video has caused a stir in the court of 82-year-old King Salman, who has summoned Prince Ahmed back to Riyadh through the Saudi Ambassador to the U.K., Prince Mohammed Bin Nawaf. The king is also hoping to compel his brother to renew his pledge of allegiance and distance himself from the criticism.
الأمير أحمد بن عبدالعزيز يقول للمعارضين بعد ماهتف بالقول" يسقط آل سعود"رد الأمير أحمد بن عبدالعزيز بالقول "آل سعود ايش دخلهم بهذا الهتاف لاناقة لهم ولا جمل بالذي يحدث"، وقال يجب توجه هذا الكلام للمسؤولين الحاليين "الملك ولي العهده" وتمنى بان تنتهي حرب #اليمن pic.twitter.com/dCUe7LVY7O
— علي بن ثامر (@alibinthamer) September 3, 2018
In 2015, a dissident prince claimed that eight of the king’s remaining brothers and much of the powerful religious Saudi religious establishment backed a palace coup that would see Prince Ahmed installed as reigning monarch. Ahmed reportedly leads an austere life free of the booze, drugs and sex that others in his milieu tend toward.
The prince can also be heard agreeing in the video with the demonstrators’ denunciation of the August airstrike on a Yemeni school bus in a crowded marketplace, which killed dozens of civilians, including 40 children.
Without a doubt, Ahmed’s comments infuriated the implementers of the atrocious, Saudi-led war – in particular, its principal architect, Crown Prince Mohammed.
The king-in-waiting, only 33 years old, had already caused tremendous divisions within the ruling family in 2015, shortly after his octogenarian father assumed the highest pinnacle of power in the absolute monarchy.
As the freshly-assigned Saudi minister of defense, MBS launched Operation Decisive Storm against Yemen in a move meant to foist a puppet government on the Yemeni people and crush the Ansarullah or Houthi movement — a mass movement of the Zaidi Shia population, which Riyadh and its allies groundlessly accuse of being the stooges of Saudi arch-rival Iran.
The war has proceeded swimmingly in terms of utterly destroying Yemeni infrastructure, showering civilian neighborhoods and ancient cultural heritage strikes with Saudi-led coalition airstrikes, and creating what the United Nations has dubbed the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.
While mass-media reports have cited 13,000 deaths resulting from the Saudi-led war, MintPress News has exclusively reported on the dire extent of the humanitarian crisis suffered in Yemen, where years of war and blockade have led to tens of thousands of preventable deaths through infectious disease and chronic illness that continue to extract a horrific toll from the war-torn country.
The Saudi rulers, however, remain no closer to conquering their southern neighbor than they were at the outset of their intervention. The war is regularly described in international media as a blundering effort or the Saudi equivalent of the Vietnam War – an atrocity-laden quagmire destined to ultimately fail.
Among royal elites, the war has been seen as a failed gamble and an example of MBS’ adventurist tendencies, which have been on full display amid an increasingly warming alliance between the Saudis and the Israelis, the Saudi-led blockade of Qatar, and last year’s purge of the Saudi royal family and infamous detention of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
Feature Photo | Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman watches as King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud delivers a speech. Photo | SPA
Elliott Gabriel is a former staff writer for teleSUR English and a MintPress News contributor based in Quito, Ecuador. He has taken extensive part in advocacy and organizing in the pro-labor, migrant justice and police accountability movements of Southern California and the state’s Central Coast.