|♫ “…Never can say good-bye…” ♫|
Saudi Arabia’s state TV has said 79-year-old Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz, who was recently receiving medical treatment, has “died outside the kingdom.”
Nayef was announced the new heir to the Saudi throne after the death of his full brother, former Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, at a New York hospital on October 22, 2011.
Next in line for the position of crown prince is expected to be Nayef’s younger brother, Prince Salman, who is the minister of defense.
This comes as Talal bin Abdel Aziz says he is the one who deserves to get the post, since he is the elder brother, making reference to their father’s will regarding the issue.
Talal was deprived of the post when Sultan died last year. Experts say the reasoning behind the move was his calls for a constitutional monarchy with reforms, not an absolute one.
Press TV has conducted an interview with Zayd al-Isa, Middle East expert from London, to further discuss the issue. The following is a rough transcription of the interview.
Press TV: We are hearing a lot about the disagreements within the royal family. Talal bin Abdel Aziz, as we saw in that report, believes he’s the one who deserves the post of successors since he’s the elder brother and he reportedly held that claim when Sultan died and Nayef got the post. The question is why isn’t he being picked? Some say it’s because he’s calling for a constitutional monarchy. Do you agree with that?
Al-Isa: Yeah. Basically the main idea is that there is a fierce, intense contest between the various princes within the royal family. The problem is that all of them are aging and ailing and actually preventing the transfer of power to the second generation, that is the grandson of Abdel Aziz. They are still holding onto power and they are actually getting more desperate as they are getting older.
They are suffering, the majority of them, from ill health, even Salman who is being pointed to as the next heir apparent is also suffering from ill health. We mustn’t forget that the situation now is highly volatile and is highly precarious.
This comes even before the dust settled on the previous contest when Sultan died. Although at that contest it was very well known that Nayef will take over because he was the second deputy for the king.
Now this comes as a shock because it comes hot on the heels of the previous contest and even before the so-called royal family had a chance to sweep all their differences under the carpet.
We mustn’t forget that Talal was extremely unhappy about it. He was deeply disappointed and he openly said that the struggle will become more savage, more intense and more bloody.
Press TV: Mr. Isa, how capable do you think the Saudi monarchy is right now in facing these domestic challenges? We know about the ethnic strife as our reports said the people of Hijaz, Mecca, Medina against the rule of the Saudi clan, the protests in the eastern province of course, the women and student protest; how capable do you think the Al Saud family is in facing these challenges?
Al-Isa: I think they are actually facing an intense, relentless and unprecedented challenges. They thought they are immune; they thought they are secure. The king Abdullah thought that his first action to stave off internal problems was to bribe off his people after denying and depriving them from the oil riches for such a long time.
He also issued a stern warning against any peaceful protests, and the religious institution play a pivotal role by issuing fatwas.
It’s very important to point out that the loss of Nayef at such a highly critical moment is extremely perilous to the regime because Nayef played a major if not a pivotal role in running the security show both internally and also externally. He had a hands-on approach. He controlled the levers of power.
He was one of the masterminds of sending the Saudi troops to invade, occupy and now the calls to annex Bahrain. He also was instrumental in playing a role in destabilizing, derailing and ultimately dismantling the political process in Iraq. He basically will leave a power vacuum or a power void which is very hard to fill.
Press TV: Would you also say that what’s at stake here for Saudi Arabia is its own state or its own state as a monarchy? Why is Saudi Arabia so much adamant in going ahead with what’s being called these anti-revolutionary movements in the region?
Al-Isa: Saudi Arabia crucially believes that it’s a matter of life and death for it. It’s fighting for its own survival. It is actually the bastion and the dumping ground of all the dictators.
It is the most intransigent, belligerent and hard-lined dictatorship in the region and that’s why it has been at the forefront and spearheading the counter revolution movement; as you mentioned, in Tunisia, giving refuge and actually propping up and backing up the Wahhabi movement there; offering whole-hearted support to the military junta in Egypt and pleading and begging with them to actually not carrying out these charges, putting Hosni Mubarak on trial, and play the a major role in the lenient charges against his sons; and also propping up the military junta; and also play the a crucial role in Yemen in backing up and offering its emphatic support to Saleh and then coming up with the initiative or the deal which in reality is a Saudi deal to offer him immunity from prosecution and to hand over power to another henchman who is emphatically in support of Saudi Arabia.
But crucially and most importantly, it has sent its forces to occupy, invade and change the demographics of another country by carrying out a sectarian cleansing of the original inhabitant and against the wills of those peaceful demonstrators.
It is facing challenges within. Now they were counting that the popular uprising will not intensify, it will not spread through Saudi Arabia. The news that it has reached Hijaz is highly critical and highly significant because it means that the people of Saudi Arabia have overcome the news that Saudi Arabia has tried to propagate, that it is at the vanguard and the job of Sunnis.