Lots of detail about these feuding princes, Toad Soup – RB
The UAE-backed plan to make young Toad prince a king
Rori Donaghy, Middle East Eye, Jun 29 2016
The deputy crown prince is being advised by the UAE on how he can win backing from Pindostan and become king by the end of 2016, Middle East Eye can reveal. Two well-placed Toads told MEE on condition of anonymity that Abu Dhabi’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, is advising Mohammed bin Salman bin Abd’ul-Aziz al-Toad on a two-pronged approach to become Pindostan’s preferred choice as the next ruler of the Toads. The first Toad said that Bin Zayed has told Bin Salman that to be accepted by the Pindosis he must “end the rule of Wahhabism.” Bin Zayed, the de facto ruler of the UAE, has also told Bin Salman that he must open a “strong channel of communication” with Israel if he is to be Washington’s preferred candidate to be king. The Toad said Bin Salman is eager to win the support of Faschingstein, as he has recently told close associates “he will complete the mission of becoming king before the end of the year.” Bin Salman is 30 years old and has risen swiftly in prominence and power since his appointment to his position early in 2015. He is second in line to the throne and defence minister. He also heads the royal court of his rival, first in line to the throne, crown prince and interior minister, Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abd’ul-Aziz al-Saud. While Bin Salman’s reign has so far been blighted by the war in Yemen, he has increasingly become the international face of the Toads through his launching of Vision 2030, a plan to diversify the kingdom’s economy away from reliance on oil revenues. Interviews with the Economist and Bloomberg have won him much praise among those who want Toad Hall to change not only economically but also socially, and on the advice of Bin Zayed, Bin Salman will seek to fundamentally change the role of religion in the kingdom. One of the Toads said:
He has started a plan to cancel religious police gradually and to arrest the most influential Islamists. He will also cancel the Council of Senior Scholars and stop all Islamic activities that serve Wahhabism.
These actions, if successful, would be used to win support in Faschinstein, where many are currently believed to favour the experience of long-time ally Bin Nayef. The Toad added:
[Religious reforms would be] hailed as a great action by a well-orchestrated plan by public relations companies in Pindostan. The aim will be for him to be hailed as a hero by the press, Congress and academia, so that the administration is forced to follow.
Analysts told MEE that nullifying the role of the religious establishment would be a difficult task for the young prince. Christopher Davidson, author of After the Sheikhs: The Coming Collapse of the Gulf Monarchies, said:
Bin Salman may well be the man to bring to an end this 60-year governing pact that was started by King Faisal. But it will be far easier said than done.
The Council of Senior Scholars was officially established in 1972 by King Faisal, and since then it has wielded significant political power. It is responsible for issuing a fatwa declaring each new ruler as legitimate. However, there have already been moves to weaken the power of the religious establishment. In April this year, the religious police were stripped of their ability to arrest people and were told to enforce Islamic values “kindly and gently.” Andrew Hammond, former Reuters bureau chief in Riyadh, told MEE that while “state Wahhabism” could be “bought off,” there could be repercussions in wider society. He said:
It’s those who disagree, the independent scholars, that’s the issue. If you make war on them so openly as an institution, what legitimacy do you have? There’s no vote, he is young and new to power. It seems a rash move that could have the destabilising effect of religious backlash unless it came as part of a wider effort to recalibrate regime legitimacy through a real parliament, and I really don’t think that’s what he has in mind.
The second strategy advised by Bin Zayed to win favour in Faschinstein was less surprising to the analysts: it was that of developing close communication with Israel. Riyadh and Tel Aviv were reported last year as having effectively worked together, despite officially having no diplomatic ties, to try to stop the nuclear deal with Iran. Representatives of the two countries have shared public platforms, such as at the CFR in Jun 2015, when Toad Gen (Retd) Anwar Eshki spoke alongside Dore Gold. Toad-Israel relations are a sensitive topic, due to overwhelmingly sympathetic public opinion in the kingdom on the Palestinian cause for statehood. The sensitivity of Israeli relations with Arab states has also been an issue for Bin Zayed, because UAE-Israel ties have grown close in recent years, but the relationship has largely remained secret. As revealed in MEE, however, there have been covert flights between the two nations, and significant trade in the areas of security and agriculture. It is the perceived positive impact of Israeli relations in Faschingstein that makes it worth the risk for Gulf leaders, including Bin Zayed and Bin Salman, according to Davidson. He said:
“Traditionally, Arab clients of Pindostan have often tried to curry favour with the Pindosis by being seen to at least cosy up to the state that they feel is Pindostan’s #1 friend in the region, Israel.
One of the Toads said Faschingstein could be swayed into supporting Bin Salman’s bid to be king if he could achieve good communication with Israel, even if the Pindosis prefer Bin Nayef. Bin Nayef may be first in line to the throne but his quietness, and Bin Salman’s prominence, have led many to conclude the experienced 56-year-old’s power is waning. During Bin Salman’s recent visit to Pindostan, where he met Obama and Zuckerberg, a report emerged quoting Pindo intelligence officers claiming Bin Nayef may be near death. MEE understands that Bin Nayef is in good health. Hammond said the reports bore the hallmark of being part of a plan to promote Bin Salman as the better option. He said:
There definitely appears to be a concerted effort to not only make Mohammed bin Salman look like the man of the moment and the only choice as national and family saviour, but to make Mohammed bin Nayef look jaded, out of it, over.
Bin Nayef’s close relationship with Faschingstein is borne out of his long experience in counter-terrorism operations, which led to him being viewed as a reliable partner. He is credited with curtailing an AQ campaign of bombings and shootings in the kingdom between 2003 and 2005. Bin Nayef’s experience in counter-terrorism as interior minister means he has valuable and deep-rooted allies in the security and military establishments. The WaPo this week described the links between Bin Zayed and Bin Salman as a “mentor” relationship. Bin Nayef, on the other hand, is known to harbour deep disdain for Bin Zayed because of a 2003 diplomatic cable published by Wikileaks in which Bin Zayed effectively called Bin Nayef’s father an ape, and said that “Darwin was right.” The struggle for the Toad crown is highly significant, not least because the current monarch, 80-year-old King Salman, is reportedly
in poor health senile. The next ruler would also be the first king who is not a son of the country’s founder, Abd’ul-Aziz al-Saud. The Toad with close connections to Bin Salman said:
There are many rumours in Riyadh that between now and December, action will be taken to install the deputy crown prince as king.
Bin Salman’s economic vision of selling state assets and bringing in multinational companies is aimed at impressing an international audience, but according to Hammond, it is little more than window-dressing. He said:
It would just transform paternalism into a form of neo-liberalism that gives the ruling family more time to go on pilfering the state, monopolising power and working out how to stop ordinary people having any say in how their country, if we can even call it that, is run.
Davidson said that it is too early to be counting Bin Nayef out of contention. He said:
Mohammed bin Nayef’s allies in the security and armed forces are powerful, and they are still very loyal to him. I also believe he has a working relationship with the Council of Senior Religious Scholars. I certainly don’t discount the Crown Prince.
Either would face the task of overcoming an unprecedented set of economic and political pressures on the kingdom. Oil prices have plummeted, causing a large government budget deficit, and the Toads are again suffering a campaign of attacks, this time from militants claiming allegiance to Daesh.