In an incredible account provided to the Washington Post, an insider in the Saudi Royal Family revealed that the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi was a result of complicated power grabs that surround the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Examples referenced in the report include family members spying on one another and even fooling China into arresting a businessman critical to the regime.
Issues of infighting within the family began almost immediately upon the death of King Abdullah, the half-brother and predecessor of King Salman, in 2015. This triggered a scramble for power between Abdullah’s sons and King Salman and his family as both factions sought to have the upper hand in the government as well as control the wealth of the royal family, according to columnist David Ignatius, who has written extensively about the country and penned the account in an opinion column.
After King Abdullah passed away in January 2015, two days later Salman became the king. From that point, the plotting began. Members of the Abdullah family began to plant bugs on the phones of senior princes, going as far as to acquire a device that can track phone calls made within 100 yards and placing surveillance devices in ashtrays to overhear conversations.
WAPO EXCLUSIVE: A reckless crown prince, paranoid about enemies and furious at Khashoggi's critiques, issued a “bring him back” order in July 2018, one that wasn’t understood by U.S. intelligence until after his murder three months later. @IgnatiusPost https://t.co/31OrvA0e5U— Carol Leonnig (@CarolLeonnig) November 27, 2018
These efforts caused Mohammed bin Salman, King Salman’s son who was appointed crown prince in the middle of 2016, to become concerned about his public image and to begin plotting the kidnapping and arrests of those who criticized him, according to the report.
Included in those plots was in a particularly audacious plan from 2016, when associates of the crown prince convince authorities in China under misleading information to kidnap and interrogate Saudi businessman Tarek Obaid, who was a critic of Salman and close to the Abdullah family.
Chinese authorities were told that Obaid had been funding terrorism and was part of the organization of plot by militants in Pakistan to launch an attack during the 2016 G-20 summit, which was held in the Saudi capital of Riyadh that year.
Chinese intelligence officials detained Obaid while he was in Beijing and subjected him to a long and painful interrogation, before eventually letting him go after no incriminating evidence was found on any of his electronic devices.
Ignatius cited that plot as an example of how far the members of the Saudi Royal Family would go to secure their position. The column makes the connection that this logic leads to the decision that caused the death of Khashoggi.
Upon rising to the crown prince, Mohammed wasted no time in solidifying his power by imprisoning more than 200 members of the Saudi elite, which included 11 princes and some of the country’s top businessman.