Jeddah, Wednesday September 13, 2017
In a clear sign of nervousness, the Saudi regime has arrested a number of prominent clerics as well as intellectuals. In all, about 20 people have been taken into custody over the last few days, according to activists on social media as well as the London-based Saudi opposition group, ALQST.
State news agency SPA reported on September 12 that authorities had uncovered “intelligence activities for the benefit of foreign parties” by a group of people. The agency, however, did not identify the people involved.
Those arrested include clerics Salman al Awdah, Awad al-Qarni, Farhan al Malki, Mostafa Hassan and Ali al-Omary. Security forces picked them up from their homes on the night of September 9.
Yahya al-Assiri, head of ALQST, also confirmed the arrests.
Another surprise arrest—or not so surprising—was that of Abdul Aziz bin Fahd, son of the former king Fahd. Abdul Aziz was his favorite son when Fahd was king. The Bani Saud kingdom seems to have too many ‘favorite sons’ but what it indicates is dissent within the ruling family.
What accounts for the latest round of arrests when there are at least 40,000 political prisoners in the kingdom already?
There is speculation that the aged and demented king Salman is about to abdicate in favor of his son, Muhammad bin Salman (in reality, he will be asked to sign a piece of paper without even knowing he is transferring power to his son).
There has been much speculation about this since Bin Salman (BS) was elevated to the position of crown prince, replacing his more experienced cousin Muhammad bin Nayef earlier this year.
The latter is currently under house arrest.
Mohammed bin Salman, who dominates the kingdom’s economic, diplomatic, military and domestic policies, has made a mess of everything.
The Saudis have lost in Syria; despite bombing dirt-poor Yemen into the Stone Age, the war still rages and the Yemenis are no closer to surrendering.
BS also took on former ally Qatar in what was believed to be a walkover and the Qataris would come begging for forgiveness. That has not happened. Instead, the Qataris have shown rare defiance and have stood up to BS’s bullying.
Some of the arrests occurred in the aftermath of news that US President Donald Trump had urged the Saudis and Qataris to patch up.
There was telephone conversation between Qatari Amir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad and BS but things quickly fell apart, largely as a result of BS’s arrogance.
Sheikh Awdah was arrested apparently after he posted a message on his Twitter account welcoming a possible end to the rift between Qatar and Saudi Arabia. He has 14 million followers on Twitter!
In the desert kingdom ruled by an erratic and nervous Bin Salman (he is the de facto ruler since king Salman suffers from dementia and is unable to keep awake for too long), even calling for peace and friendship can land one in prison.
There is also fear that dissent will spread once news of BS’s secret visit to Tel Aviv on September 6 to meet Israeli officials becomes more widely known.
Israeli media outlets reported that a ‘very important Saudi prince’ visited the illegitimate entity. There has been deathly silence from the Saudis.
Bin Salman’s real challenge comes from Miteb bin Abdullah who heads the powerful National Guard. Before Abdullah died, there was a plot to make Miteb the Crown Prince but Salman and his ambitious son Muhammad bin Salman (the current crown prince) were able to thwart it.
Getting rid of Miteb will not be as easy as he got rid of Muhammad bin Nayef. This explains why the race is on for Bin Salman to become king before Salman dies.
There is no guarantee that BS will have smooth sailing even if he becomes king.
Resentment at his massive failures as well as his arrogance have riled many senior princes in the ruling family.
More than anything else, it is the conflict between members of the Bani Saud that will lead to the collapse of the ruling family.
Aware of this, exiled Saudi opposition activists in Britain have called for protests on September 15 to mobilize resistance to the corrupt ruling family.