Khashoggi's revenge

Khashoggi's death may have set the wheels in motion for a major upheaval in the House of Saud.

Dr. Mordechai Kedar, | updated: 09:00

Dr. Mordechai Kedar
Dr. Mordechai Kedar
Eliran Aharon

According to Reuters, a group consisting of members of the Saudi royal family plans to replace the son of reigning King Salman, Mohammad, with his uncle, the king's brother, 76 year old Ahmed bin Abed Al-Aziz.

In order to understand the significance of this plan, it is important to be aware of the internal hierarchy of the ruling House of Saud and how it operates.

Today's monarchy was established by Abed Al-Aziz Al Saud (the word "Al" here is not the informative syllable often put at the start of names but indicates a "family" and is therefore written without a hyphen) 1876-1953. He had forty wives, sixteen of whom did not bear children. The others bore him 45 sons and 27 daughters, nine of whom are still alive, one of them being the current monarch, King Salman.

When dynasty founder Abed Al-Aziz died in 1953, his son Saud bin Abed Al-Aziz took his place, and reigned until 1964,. He had 44 wives and altogether 117 sons and daughters.

The following ruler was his brother, Faisal bin Abed Al-Aziz, who reigned until 1975 and had seven wives who bore him sixteen sons and daughters.

Next in line was his brother, Haled bin Abed Al-Aziz, who ruled until 1982. He had three wives who bore him ten sons and daughters.

Then came his brother Fahd bin Abed Al-Aziz, who reigned until 2005. Fahd had fourteen wives and ten sons and daughters. He was followed by his brother, Abdallah bin Abed Al-Aziz , who had twenty one wives, sixteen sons and twenty daughters, ruling until 2015.

His brother,  Salman bin Abed Al-Aziz, became the king and continues to rule up to the present. He had five wives, one of whom died and two whom he divorced. He has ten sons and one daughter.

In other words, Abed Al-Aziz, founding monarch of the House of Saud, has at least two hundred grandchildren descending from the six sons who reigned as kings as well as hundreds more descended from the 39 sons who were not crowned king.

.Some of the grandsons have already died of old age, but most are still alive. Many of them held key and influential positions in the country's government, army, security, economic and political echelons, gaining much experience in economic, civil and military administration.

In 2017, reigning monarch Salman, facing this vast gallery of grandsons, and giving prominence to those nephews whose fathers had been kings, chose his favorite son, Mohammad to succeed him upon his death, this despite there being older and much more experienced cousins in the running.  It is important to note that at first, in 2015, Salman had chosen his nephew, Mohammad bin Nayef as successor, but changed his mind two years later and appointed his son Mohammad crown prince.

The choice of his young and inexperienced son to be crown prince infuriated many of the other grandchildren, especially those whose fathers had been king, because in traditional Middle Eastern society, age is the primary factor in determining order of succession: Older family members take precedence over younger ones, and even more so if the older one has experience and know-how.

King Salman, however, was helped by a body called "The Council of the Oath of the Faithful" established by King Abdallah in 2006 in order to choose subsequent rulers. All the sons of the founding king are members of it, including the six kings and their brothers the princes, with those who have died represented by one of their sons.

Allowing the Council to decide on the crown prince granted a seal of approval to the king's choice, but it was clear to everyone that the king had forced his will on the Council when in 2017 it replaced the original crown prince and appointed young and inexperienced Salman in his stead.

After his appointment as crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman announced a long list of steps intended to give the kingdom a new image– such as introducing new economic ventures in industry, hi-tech and tourism, all with the goal of freeing the country from dependence on its waning oil fields. He gave women permission to drive cars and attend sports events as spectators, reduced the powers of the "Modesty Police," declared that Saudi Arabia must adopt a more moderate version of Islam, planned to build a new, modern city Nium as a joint project of the Saudis, Jordan and Egypt – and even made a few positive remarks about Israel.

The world ignored it when, in early November 2017, in a shocking display of despotism, Salman locked hundreds of members of the ruling family in the luxurious Riyadh Ritz-Carleton Hotel. His men then interrogated those incarcerated in the hotel about alleged "corruption" and succeeded in extorting billions of dollars from some of them in exchange for their freedom.

The problem does not end with the imprisonment and extortion of these members of the royal family. First and foremost is the shame the House of Saud members endured by being arrested in the hotel ballroom, and then forced to spend the night on the floor or trying to sleep on chairs. Another problem is that two of them met their deaths trying to escape.

The Middle East operates according to the Koranic verse: "Allah is with those who are patient."  The Bedouin have their own adage: "The Bedouin avenges his father's blood forty years after the murder, and says 'I hurried'." Another well known Islamic saying is: "Haste is from the Satan, patience from the Lord." 

The extended family of Saud, humiliated in the Ritz-Carleton and still smarting from the way older members were cast aside for a young whippersnapper, have been waiting patiently to pounce on Mohammed bin Salman when the time is ripe. That time has arrived faster than expected, brought to them on a silver platter by the unfortunate Jamal Khashoggi.

The Khashoggi family is not an integral part of the House of Saud, but is strongly attached to it. The family's sons generally evinced loyalty to the House of Saud and were rewarded with fat contracts that ensured their wealth. Jamal's uncle, Adnan Khashoggi, who died in 2017, was a multi-billionaire who made his money by being close to the monarchy. He succeeded in becoming a favorite of Kings Fahd and Abdallah, who felt free to confide their innermost secrets to him as he posed no danger to their seats, lacking royal blood and having no aspirations to rule. For example, he helped the kings and their families deal with medical and physiological problems that no man, let alone a king, is prepared to reveal.

Adnan's relative, Jamal Khashoggi, rebelled against the family line and became a severe critic of the entire House of Saud in general and of Crown Prince Salman in particular. That is why he left the kingdom and made his home in the USA,, where he published his criticism of the monarchy in the media.

Jamal, however, needed his divorce papers in order to be able to marry his Turkish fiancée, and gave in to the temptation to travel to Istanbul to obtain them at the Saudi Consulate there. He was murdered and his body dismembered and hidden in a place that remains unknown – at least up until the time this article is being written.

The murder of a journalist and the dismemberment of his body shocked the entire world, and as a result, many friends of the Saudis refuse to visit the country, be seen with its leaders in public – especially the crown prince – or sign new contracts with its industries. The sons of the royal family know full well that Salman is responsible for the murder, even without the recordings and proofs revealed by Turkey, and they are using it as the reason to demand he be deposed.

As of now, King Salman has backed his crown prince son, with Saudi law enforcement   bringing 21 people it accuses of responsibility for the murder to trial. Everyone knows, however, that these are simply scapegoats who will be convicted and sacrificed – five already have received the death sentence – in order to save Mohammed bin Salman's hide.

Will the world be satisfied? It is fair to assume that this plan will not work, especially if proof of the crown prince's involvement in the murder is made public. The royal family awaits the moment the king gives in to the ever-growing international and local demands for justice, or once  he dies, for the Council to replace Mohammed bin Salman with someone more suitable to rule the country and family,

Will Mohammed bin Salman accept the Council's decision, and give up the monarchy peacefully? That is unclear at present, but it is certainly possible for him to decide to fight for his position. It is also probable that he has already organized a coalition of supporters from the House of Saud and it is even possible that he plans to order another round of arrests among the ranks of his opponents, as he did a year ago. He may, as Minister of Defense, already have raised an army to defend his position and the monarchy's institutions in the event that his opponents turn to violence or the people take to the street in protest. A violent scenario played out by Mohammed's supporters and his opponents is a distinct possibility.

And that is how Jamal Khashoggi, from his grave, is wreaking revenge on the royal family he so despised and on his sworn enemy Mohammed bin Salman. Khashoggi sits up above, observing those who caused his horrible death and enjoying the spectacle of the House of Saud embroiled in internal fighting, perhaps even collapsing on itself – Inshallah – and sinking into a boiling swamp of blood, tears and fire like the ones it brought to Yemen, Iraq and Syria.

And let us not ignore Iran. The Iranians, too, are waiting impatiently for this scenario to come about. Take note, Jerusalem and Washington.

Translated by Rochel Sylvetsky, Arutz Sheva Op-ed and Judaism Editor.


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