A wild insider account in The Washington Post described
paranoia in the Saudi royal family leading to the murder
journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
- Factions within the House of Saud started jockeying for power
in January 2015, it said, and Prince Mohammed bin Salman grew
increasingly brutal with his critics.
One plot, it said, involved Saudi agents lying to China
to get somebody extradited so Saudi Arabia could punish
Jamal Khashoggi’s murder was born out of a brutal culture around
the Saudi crown prince, which included members of the royal
family jockeying for power, spying on each other, and tricking
China into arresting a critical businessman, according to a
wild insider account in The Washington Post.
In-fighting within the House of Saud started as early 2015,
around the death of King Abdullah, the half-brother and
predecessor of the current King Salman, the Post said.
Abdullah’s sons, and Salman and his family, started competing for
power, likely in an attempt to control the royal family’s wealth
and retain power in government, Washington Post columnist David
Ignatius wrote. Salman was appointed king two days after Abdullah
died in January 2015.
Ignatius wrote: “The cutthroat scheming within the House of Saud
over the following years matches anything in the fantasy series
‘Game of Thrones.'”
Both sides started plotting against each other, with members of
the Abdullah faction reportedly bugging the phones of senior
princes, purchasing a device that could remotely and secretly
detect phone calls within a 100-yard radius, and hiding
surveillance devices in ashtrays around royal palaces to pick up
King Salman’s son, Mohammed bin Salman — who was appointed crown
prince in mid-2016 — also reportedly grew increasingly anxious
about his public image, and started organizing the kidnappings
and detentions of his critics, The Washington Post said.
One of the wildest plots took place in August 2016, when
then-Prince Mohammed’s associates misled Chinese authorities into
kidnapping and interrogating a Saudi businessman who had
criticized Mohammed’s policies and was close to the Abdullah
camp, according to The Washington Post.
The column offered the plot as evidence of the lengths to which
Saudi royals were prepared to go in order to achieve their ends.
It is, the column contends, the same kind of scheme which led to
the brutal death of Khashoggi.
In the 2016 plot Prince Mohammed’s associates had falsely told
Chinese intelligence agents that Obaid had been funding terrorist
activities and had been organizing a plot by Pakistani militants
to disrupt an upcoming G-20 summit that year, the Post said.
The purported goal was for Chinese authorities to arrest Obaid
under terrorism suspicions and extradite him to Saudi Arabia.
Acting on the Saudis’ information, Chinese intelligence agents
detained Obaid in Beijing, covered his head and body in a
bag, and handcuffed him to a chair in an interrogation room, the
Obaid was subjected to a long and painful interrogation, during
which he said he had no idea what their accusations were about.
Chinese authorities eventually let him go after finding no
incriminating information on his iPad and cellphone, The
Washington Post said.
Obaid, who has a Swiss passport, now lives in Geneva.
Shortly after becoming crown prince last year, Mohammed also
consolidated his power by imprisoning more than 200 members of
the Saudi elite, including 11 princes and dozens of top
at the luxury Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh.
Some princes reportedly negotiated their release by
promising to pay the government billions.