MBS’s apparent public disappearance for well over a month now, since the alleged coup attempt of April 21st, has stirred controversy with some international media outlets speculating that the Saudi royal might have been killed. FRN has practiced journalistic due diligence in refraining from adding to such speculation.
However, it is now June 2nd, and the most interesting thing to have happened in the interim was a very strange and ‘incredible’ attempt by the Saudi’s to show ‘proof of life’ for MBS. They showed a photo of him chairing a committee on or about May 22nd, though there are no elements of this photo which could give us any indication of when it took place. It is also a low resolution photo, not suited for ‘evidence’ in this digital age. This makes such ‘evidence’ somewhat problematic.
This means that if MBS is alive, there are three likely possibilities.
- MBS is participating or even creating this ruse in order to see how certain other players respond, either domestically or internationally
- MBS is refusing to give ‘proof of life’, because such an ‘order to appear’ denotes a master/servant relationship, with those claiming he is dead or disappeared in the position of authority. One cannot make ‘demands’ of the crown prince.
- MBS is being held captive, and another individual inside the palace makes decisions under his name
The photo above is the last verifiable evidence of MBS being alive. It was a meeting in Spain with members of the Spanish royal family, dated April 12th of this year.
The Iranian paper Kayhan was the first major regional press to entertain reports that bin Salman was allegedly hit by two bullets during the April 21 attack on the royal palace in Riyadh, and that he indeed may actually be dead. However, Saudi royal family sources denied all such reports to Pakistan’s online daily ‘Daily Pakistan‘ as Iranian propaganda.
On April 21st heavy gunfire was heard near the royal palace. Although KSA official news agencies claimed it was security shooting down a drone too close to the royal property, many began to wonder if the gunfire was in fact a coup, led by Saudi’s trying to topple King Salman, MBS’s father.
There certainly would be multiple motives, given the moves that MBS made to consolidate power. A year ago, MBS seems to have effected the multiple and simultaneous murders and arrests of numerous Saudi royals and related officials who held important positions, whether formally or informally, and posed, in his mind, a threat to his attempt to consolidate power. The purpose of such consolidation is explained in several theories, which we will not elaborate on here. In July of 2017, western press released photos of dozens of Saudi princes living in house arrest, sleeping on mattresses together in a single room.
The Saudi sources claimed that the 32-year-old crown prince of Saudi Arabia was safe and spending the holidays in Egypt with his family, where he had been personally invited by Egyptian President Fattah el-Sisi. They added that leaders of Abu Dhabi and Bahrain are also present with MBS in Egypt, but again, these reports cannot be independently verified.
No one denies that he has not been in public since April 12th in terms of official public appearances, and this contradicts the report that he met in the third week of May with his Ethiopian counterpart.
As a result of his public disappearance, Iranian and Russian media had started reporting that the crown prince died during the April attack on the royal palace. Is this a ‘call to appear’ or an ‘order to appear’? This is a known propaganda move, which was used previously against Russia’s president Putin in the first week of March in 2015. But Putin’s ‘absence’ lasted only 11 days. MBS has been ‘missing’ for 40.
The Iranian newspaper Kayhan reported that Mohammed bin Salman allegedly received bullet injuries during the attack and may actually be dead. To repeat, the Saudi’s officially claimed that the verified report of tremendous shooting at the palace, was to take down a drone which was operating illegally too close to the palace, as we explained above.
The leading Iranian daily cited “a secret service report sent to the senior officials of an unnamed Arab state” to bolster its claims about the status of MBS.
But what gives some credence the Iranian source’s disclosure, is that MBS was not even seen on camera when new US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo paid his first visit to Riyadh in late April. While Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir were photographed, MBS was not.
Besides the Tehran-based papers, some Russian media outlets also alluded to the possible ‘killing’ of Mohammed bin Salman, however, the reports in turn relied on the original Iranian source. What makes the developments different now, again, is the length of time since his last appearance, and the problem with the evidence which the Saudi’s released internationally to rebuff claims of his disappearance.
Such would make sense, given that MBS doesn’t have the unwavering loyalty of the royal guard. In history, it was normal for rulers to have a close bodyguard from a foreign land. They are less likely to rebel, being so far from home. They are far less likely to have any connections to pretenders or claimants to the throne. Finally, they are less likely to act more robustly against the population, not feeling any sense of ethnic or national connection or duty to the masses.
It is of course possible that MBS is alive, and entertains this rumor to see where it leads. Often people’s real feelings and attitudes about a person are revealed once they believe they are dead. It is also possible that this is an Iranian power-play on MBS, establishing a precedent where they hold some ability to question the crown prince’s existence, and can ‘order’ him to prove he is alive. Finally, it is also possible that MBS was killed or critically injured during the ‘drone’ incident of April. Such a critical injury would be one which disfigured his face, if MBS holds no other reasons to entertain the theory that he is dead or disappeared.