Game of Thrones a-la-Gulf: Saudi royal said to be calling to family members to replace king

Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz. © Gary Cameron
A letter has been allegedly circulating among members of the Saudi royal family, with warnings that the House of Saud may be losing its grip on power. The letter containing a number of political accusations is said to be penned by an unnamed royal himself.

"We [have] got closer and closer to the fall of the state and the loss of power," online news portal Middle East Eye cited the letter on Tuesday. Signed by "a descendant of the King Abdulaziz of the House of Saud," the letter is said to have been written by the late king's grandson, who confirmed to MEE he was the author, but asked not to be named "for fear of negative repercussions."

"We appeal to all the sons of King Abdulaziz... to summon an emergency meeting with all the family to discuss the situation and do everything that is need[ed] to save the country," the four-page document reportedly says, with a senior Saudi prince calling for the current "incapable" Saudi King Salman and his son Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to be replaced.

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The 79-year-old Saudi king in the spotlight of the backstairs intrigue has ruled the country since the death of his brother Abdullah in January. Apart from him and his son, the letter also mentions his nephew Mohammad bin Al-Nayef, calling the latter "extravagant and vain." Both younger royals hold high positions in the Saudi government, and are responsible for decisions which saw oil prices fall steeply, as well as the war in Yemen.

The letter claims the recent military decisions, including the campaigns in Yemen, Syria and Iraq are "totally miscalculated," having "weakened the trust of our people and [incited] other peoples against us."

The document, which is said to be circulating among the princes via a secure means of mobile communication, also reportedly touches upon the financial challenges faced by the Gulf kingdom. While oil revenues make the overwhelming part of the state's income, it has now found itself in a situation when oil prices have plummeted by more than half in over the year.

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Yet, the Saudi royal family continues to wow the world with its luxurious lifestyle, with King Salman closing a whole French Riviera beach for exclusive use or booking out an entire luxury hotel while in Washington. The net worth of the royal family is estimated at around 1.4 trillion dollars – but the alleged author of the letter suggests some certain royal family members have been "devastating for the state." The author went as far as to call the Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman a "rotten thief."

Saudi Arabia's Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. © Charles Platiau

"We will not be able to stop the draining of money, the political adolescence, and the military risks unless we change the methods of decision making, even if that implied changing the king himself," MEE cited the letter as saying.

The modern state of Saudi Arabia was established in 1932 by King Abdulaziz Ibn Saud. Since his death in 1953, the country has been ruled by his sons, including the current King Salman. Over a dozen of Ibn Saud's sons are still alive, but it is said that Salman may be handing the reigns over to his son – a grandson of Ibn Saud, rather than to one of the founder's living sons. Such a move would not be welcomed by other members of the royal family, and could cause an internal rift in the House of Saud.

Whether the ruler in Saudi Arabia is changed will "depend largely on their external benefactor - the United States, and whether the United States wants King Salman and his particular choices of defense minister etc. to continue to rule," political science professor Colin Cavell told RT, adding that there is still "a real problem internally, there's great concern among the Saudi royals over the amount of money."

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"What we have is a lot of avariciousness, a lot of greed and this undercuts the entire House of Saud," Cavell said, commenting on the reported letter.  

However, some have suggested that the document could be a hoax. Doubting the authenticity of the letter, a prominent Saudi journalist told MEE – which originally reported it, that he knows "a prince who is always exchanging with me documents and articles." "This letter hasn't circulated," General Manager of Al Arab Television Jamal Khashoggi said.

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