by Ghassan Kadi for the Saker blog

Ironically, the first three words of my first article regarding the “War on Syria” were 1) Bandar, 2) Bin, 3) Sultan.

Back in June 2011 when that article was written, Bandar Bin Sultan was clearly the head of the serpent and the architect of all attacks that were plotted and conjured up to destabilize Syria and turn her from the pivotal state of the axis of resistance to one that would kowtow to the so-called American-Israeli roadmap, but in reality, it is an American-Israeli-Saudi roadmap.

Even though Bandar’s wings have been clipped after the death of his then Crown Prince father and his failure in Syria, Bandar remains a potentially very powerful figure in Saudi Arabia. Potentially, because right now, he has been demoted to nothing, but should Mohamed Bin Salman (MBS) take a tumble, what is left of the Saudi Royal family will have to decide who would be king. In such an event, the name of Bandar would definitely surface again. This was a possible scenario even before MBS took his gamble and imprisoned his cousins.

At 68 years of age, Bandar is down but not out, but for the wheel of fortune to turn his way again, he needs a miracle, and the fall of MBS could well be that miracle that Bandar hopes for.

Even if MBS now extorts all of the fortunes out of his detained cousins under the charge of corruption, the moment they get released, they will start planning how to topple him. And as they do, candidates will be proposed to replace him, and Bandar will undoubtedly top that list among a few others.

Furthermore, how can MBS trust army commanders and others who are now loyal to him? How can he guarantee that they won’t do the dirty on him and support the other royals when and if released in a royal family led coup against him?

In fact, with the many wives and children Saudi kings and princes have, the number of descendants of the founding King Abdul Aziz has swollen to over 10,000 in less than a century. With a male prince count of 5,000 or so, this is not only a messy situation that makes succession a nightmare, but a very expensive one as well given that they all receive very generous stipends, despite all the recent cuts and austerity measures that MBS has imposed on them.

MBS sees them as a liability, and he wants them to give back what they embezzled. But in reality, after he has achieved this, what can he do with them in a manner that will not backfire in his face?

Up until recently, the royal family members have split the spoils, and whilst some royals were ministers for example, others were chiefs of police, the royal guards, and less senior ones were kept happy and quiet by giving them powerful financial positions and appointing them as CEO’s. But MBS has put an end to this, and he has put all branches of the armed forces under his own personal command and even made himself the CEO of Aramco, the world’s richest oil company with assets estimated at USD 2 Tn.

It would be foolish to think that the aspiring and power-hungry MBS is not taking all contingencies seriously now, and given what he has thus far done already, there is no return for him. If anything, by taking his cousins as prisoners, giving “put it on the Ritz” a whole new meaning, his only way to end this saga in a manner that guarantees his continuity, even survival, is by totally disempowering his prisoners, and even to possibly assassinate them. With the killing of Abdul Aziz Bin Fahd whilst resisting arrest, and he is the son of a former king, as well as the alleged deliberate shooting down of a helicopter with a prince on board trying to escape, MBS has already demonstrated that royal blood can be forfeit.

Perhaps MBS is receiving his inspiration from the Albanian born Ottoman Mohamed Ali, who was Egypt’s Wali (governor) and how he rose to power in the late 18th Century. He invited all of his rivals to a conference, a whole three hundred of them, and had them all executed.

It has been reported that Bandar is included in the list of princes under arrest. Seemingly, he is being investigated on bribery charges over a weapons deal with the UK, but the underlying reason for imprisoning Bandar, if he is indeed in custody, would be his potential political danger to MBS.

As the events are developing very quickly, it is not clear as yet who are the key princes that MBS was not able to round up for the simple reason of being outside Saudi Arabia when the purge was effected. Though it is highly unlikely that there are many key royals who escaped the purge by being overseas, their “danger” to MBS, whoever they are, cannot be ignored.

Different reports vary in terms of revealing the exact number and names of princes and top notch businessmen under arrest. Initially, the total number of all detained was said to be 208, but informal reports are now saying that the real figure is much higher. Nothing has been reported about the Al-Rajhi family. The Al-Rajhis are bankers, they are the Rothschilds of Saudi Arabia with close ties to the royals and with some intermarriages. Are their key people arrested, at large, living in hiding or overseas? Or are they simply considered loyal MBS troops because of their Sudairy family link that is close to King Salman?

And if MBS counts on powerbrokers like the Al-Rajhis, he will need many others like them from the outside of the House of Saud, because any Al-Saud descendent can have a claim on the throne; one way of the other.

And what about the clerics? MBS made it clear that he wants to modernize Saudi Arabia and dismantle the Shariah Police among other things, but he is avoiding a confrontation with the clerics as some of them are very powerful and command huge popular support. He is trying to gain popularity from within the disgruntled Saudi youth who are sick and tired of the waste and lavish lifestyle of the royals, especially in tough economic times, and attacking the clerics will not help achieve this target. He much prefers to see them turn to be on his side, but he is using his treatment of his own cousins as a pretext to send a very powerful message to any cleric who wants to stand in his way.

If MBS intends to maintain the royal status quo of all the existing princes, in reality he will be leaving himself with the only choice of having to execute them all, and if he doesn’t, he will forever need to look over his shoulder and guard his back. His other option would be to strip them all from their royal status, push the reset button on the Al-Saud legacy, thereby starting a new bloodline based on himself and his offspring. To clinch this turnaround, he will need to ask his father King Salman to abdicate, thereby blocking even his own brothers, and ending any speculations about the bloodline.

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