A seminar recently held in Cairo focused on the political future of Saudi Arabia in the absence of King Abdullah’s trip to the US for treatment and the prospects of his possible death.
The meeting, “The Future of Political Conflict among the Heirs in Saudi Arabia,” attended by Arab experts and politicians, including Saudi academics and Egypt’s al-Azhar scholars concluded that there was a fight over the throne among Al Saud heirs.
The conflict they said was being covertly fueled and steered by the US and Israel who see the oil-rich Arab kingdom an issue of mutual concern and consider it to be the primary strategic ally in the Middle East against the forces of resistance.
The experts noted that documents and information available indicate that the conflict is going in two directions: First among the sons of King Abdul Aziz and the second among his grandchildren.
In the first group are the remainder of the Al Sudairy Clan — seven sons of King Ibn Saud and Princess Hassa bint Ahmad Al Sudairy — most notably Defense Minister Prince Sultan, Riyadh’s Governor Prince Salman and Interior Minister Prince Nayef, who is largely backed by hardline Wahhabis.
The second the experts said is among the grandchildren of Abdul Aziz ibn Saud, and most notably Khaled bin Sultan, who effectively runs the defense ministry and Mutaib bin Abdullah who is in charge of the Saudi National Guard.
Among the second group is Bandar bin Sultan, widely seen as closely tied with US intelligence services and his return to the kingdom after a one-year absence is not deemed much of a coincidence.
Given the old age and diminishing health of King Abdullah and his brothers, the conflict between Bandar and Mutaib is the only serious power struggle which might amount to war, the meeting concluded. They noted that Washington is seeking to arrange a peaceful power transition, although Bandar’s rule would better serve its interests.
The participants in the seminar cautioned against changes in the Saudi government that might further reinforce Wahhabi extremists in the kingdom, bring closer cooperation between Riyadh and Washington and even lead to normalization of ties Tel Aviv.
They also demanded the independence of the holy Muslim sites from the dominance of the Al Saud royal family and Wahhabis, and called for the supervision of independent Muslim nations and scholars instead.