Saudi monarch King Salman is set to step down and announce his son Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman as his successor next week, sources said.
The 81-year-old king will continue as a ceremonial figurehead, handing over official leadership of the country to his son — often referred to as MBS, the Daily Mail quoted royal sources as saying.
The move is seen as the final step in the 32-year-old bin Salman’s power grab, which began earlier this month with the arrests of over 40 princes and government ministers in a corruption probe.
“Unless something dramatic happens, King Salman will announce the appointment of MBS as King of Saudi Arabia next week,” the sources said. “King Salman will play the role of the queen of England. He will only keep the title ‘Custodian of the Holy Shrines’.”
The source went on to claim that once crowned king, the prince will shift his focus to Iran, a long standing rival oil empire to Saudi Arabia in the Middle East, with fears military action is possible. He will also enlist the help of the Israeli military to crush Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia supported by Iran, according to the source.
“MBS is convinced that he has to hit Iran and Hezbollah,” he said. “Contrary to the advice of the royal family elders, that’s MBS’s next target. Hence why the ruler of Kuwait privately calls him ‘The raging Bull’.”
“MBS’s plan is to start the fire in Lebanon, but he’s hoping to count on Israeli military backing. He has already promised Israel billions of dollars in direct financial aid if they agree. MBS cannot confront Hezbollah in Lebanon without Israel. Plan B is to fight Hezbollah in Syria,’ said the source.
Tensions have been rising between Saudi Arabia and Iran after the Saudi government blamed Iran for a foiled missile attack near Riyadh on November 4. The rocket was fired from neighboring Yemen and was heading towards the Saudi capital before it was shot down. The Saudi foreign minister, Adel Jubair, said Iran was responsible and called the attack ‘an act of war’.
‘Salman not to relinquish throne’
Meanwhile, another senior Saudi official dismissed the mounting speculation that the crown prince will soon ascend to the throne. “There is no possibility whatsoever that the king will abdicate,” Bloomberg quoted the unnamed official as saying.
Saudi kings usually stay in power even when bad health prevents them from carrying out their job, the official said on condition of anonymity. He noted the example of King Fahd, who stayed on as monarch until his death in 2005 despite being gravely ill in the last few years of his reign.