Mohammed bin Nayef, right, had been first in line for the throne until 2017, when Mohammed bin Salman, left, was elevated over him (Screen-grab, Copyrights: AFP)
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Saudi Arabia:

The royal family of Saudi Arabia is going through unrest. If reports are to be believed, on the orders of the crown prince, three members of the royal family have been arrested as they speculated a coup against King Salman.

Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, the younger brother of King Salman, and Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, the king’s nephew and the former Crown Prince, and Prince Nawaf bin Nayef, a royal cousin are the ones arrested.

Citing a regional source, Reuters reported that Mohammed bin Salman accused the royals “of conducting contacts with foreign powers, including the Americans and others, to carry out a coup d’etat.”

A Game of Thrones: The Saudi Version

The vast royal family of Al-Saud is ruling the totalitarian state of Saudi Arabia since 1902. And the order of succession to the Saudi Arabian throne is decided by and within the house of Saud.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud (Screen-grab, Copyrights: Fayez Nureldine, AFP)

The current ruler of Saudi Arabia is King Salman, who had succeeded King Abdullah on his death on 23 January 2015. When Salman became the king, Prince Muqrin became Crown Prince only to be replaced three months later by Muhammad bin Nayef at the order of Salman.

On the morning of 21 June 2017, in a palace coup, Muhammad bin Nayef was deposed as Crown Prince and Salman’s son Mohammad bin Salman was appointed to the position.

Implications of the Arrest

The arrest comes in the wake of alleged differences in opinion with the crown prince Mohammed.

Mohammed bin Nayef and Ahmed bin Abdulaziz are considered to be important figures in the royal household. Nayef is celebrated for overcoming al-Qaeda insurgency in the 2000s and is considered a close ally of the US intelligence officials.

Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz (Screengrab, Copyrights: AP)

While 78 years old Ahamed bin Abdulaziz, the only surviving brother of the King is often considered as a potential alternative to Mohammed bin Salman. He is also a much-respected figure within the country and has close ties with western political powers.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (Screen-grab, Copyrights: Mandel Ngan, Reuters)

According to a Time report, the arrest is a message from Crown Prince Mohammed. It “sent a message to anyone in the royal family feeling disenfranchised: Stop grumbling and toe the line, because if Prince Ahmed can be arrested, any prince can and will be.”

Prince Ahmed, a very respectable figure in Saudi was seen as a person who royals could look to when annoyed with the crown prince’s grip on power, the report suggests. However, the details of the arrests are still cryptic as Saudi has not yet released any statement.

“There are some kinds of rumors and innuendos that there’s turmoil within the family in the form of criticism, but that doesn’t justify being arrested as criminals, with masked security forces coming to their rooms and yanking them out of their private residences,” Khalil Jahshan, executive director of the Arab Center in Washington, DC, told Al Jazeera.

Consolidating Power: The Tactics of Crown Prince

Prince Ahmed had issues with the crown prince since the beginning. He had also abstained from pledging his allegiance to Mohammed.

Mohammed who became the crown prince in 2017 is considered to be ruthless and ambitious. He reportedly doesn’t want any independent voices that don’t agree with him. Earlier he had arrested several royals and billionaire businessmen in what was called an anti-corruption campaign, a move that called for a stir in Saudi and abroad.

Jamal Kashoggi (Screengrab, Copyrights: Arab News)

He is also implied in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent journalist and had been in the spotlight for cracking down on women’s rights activists.

There has been no official comment from Saudi authorities on the arrests.

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