The deposed crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Nayef, has reportedly been put under house arrest after the recent reshuffling in the country’s royal succession.
On Wednesday, the New York Times cited four current and former American officials and Saudis close to the royal family as saying on condition of anonymity that Mohammed bin Nayef has been barred from leaving the country and confined to his palace in the coastal city of Jeddah.
The guards at Mohammed bin Nayef’s palace in Jidda have reportedly been replaced by guards loyal to Mohammed bin Salman and Nayef has not been allowed to leave his palace since then, the report said.
On June 21, Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud issued a royal decree to replace Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz Al Saud with his own son. According to the decree, the 31-year-old crown prince is also named deputy prime minister and shall maintain his post as defense minister.
The Saudi internal security services have apparently taken the measure in an attempt to limit any potential opposition for the new crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, the NY report said.
The new restrictions were imposed almost immediately after Mohammed bin Salman’s promotion, the report added.
This is while Saudi state news outlets have extensively tried to portray a smooth transition by repeatedly broadcasting a video showing Mohammed bin Salman kissing the hand of Mohammed bin Nayef, who wishes him well.
The Saudi Information Ministry officials could not immediately be reached for comment and it is unclear how long the restrictions will remain in place.
However, a senior Foreign Ministry official who spoke with the NY on the phone described the account as “baseless and false.”
A senior US official said the restriction show that the new crown prince does not tolerate “any opposition.” “He does not want any rear-guard action within the family. He wants a straight elevation without any dissent — not that MBN (Mohammed bin Nayef) was plotting anything anyway.”
American officials have not had any formal contact with Mohammed bin Nayef so far, but they are monitoring the situation closely, the official said.
The restrictions have also been imposed on Mohammed bin Nayef’s daughters, the report said. A married daughter was reportedly told to stay at home, but her husband and their children do not face that restriction.
The power struggle inside the House of Saud came to light earlier this year when the Saudi king began to overhaul the government and offered positions of influence to a number of family members.
Young Mohammed bin Salman was little known both at home and abroad before Salman became king in January 2015.
However, King Salman has significantly increased the powers of his favored son, with observers describing the prince as the real power behind his father’s throne.
As the defense minister, Mohammed bin Salman has faced strong international criticism for the bloody military campaign he launched against neighboring Yemen in 2015 amid rivalry with bin Nayef, the then crown prince and interior minister.
Mohammed bin Salman, according to analysts, appears to have orchestrated the Persian Gulf diplomatic crisis, which has seen a Saudi-led bloc of countries cut ties with Qatar and impose an economic siege on the country.
The diplomatic spat broke out days after a summit in Riyadh attended by US President Donald Trump, a staunch supporter of Saudi rulers and, in particular, Mohammed bin Salman.