Report: Saudi king to step down next week
A source close to the Saudi king told the British Daily Mail in an exclusive interview that King Salman plans to step down and name his son, Mohammad bin Salman, as his heir; Bin Salman recently arrest more than 40 princes and senior ministers for alleged corruption—a move that shook the kingdom to its core.
Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz will retire next week and announce his son, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammad bin Salman, as his successor, the British Daily Mail reported Thursday, quoting a source close to the Saudi royal family who spoke exclusively with the paper.
The official who spoke to the British newspaper stressed that King Salman would continue to serve as a ceremonial leader, "like the Queen of England," but would transfer the official role of the country's leadership to his son.
The report said it was the last step of 32-year-old Prince Mohammad bin Salman on his way to a formal takeover of Saudi Arabia, which has been shaken by political turmoil in recent weeks over the arrest of more than 40 princes and senior ministers as part of an anti-corruption campaign.
"Unless something dramatic happens, King Salman will announce the appointment of MBS as King of Saudi Arabia next week," the source told the Daily Mail. "King Salman will play the role of the queen of England. He will only keep the title "Custodian of the Holy Shrines."
The source added that after he is crowned king, Prince Mohammad bin Salman would focus mainly on Iran—Saudi Arabia's biggest rival in the Gulf.
He added that the new king would also attempt enlist the support of the Israeli army for the struggle against Hezbollah, which is supported by Iran.
"The prince is convinced that he has to hit Iran and Hezbollah, the source claimed. "Contrary to the advice of the royal family elders, that's his next target. Hence why the ruler of Kuwait privately calls him 'The raging Bull.'
"His plan is to start the fire in Lebanon, but he's hoping to count on Israeli military backing. He has already promised Israel billions of dollars in direct financial aid if they agree," the source elaborated. "He cannot confront Hezbollah in Lebanon without Israel. Plan B is to fight Hezbollah in Syria."
The validity of the source's claims has yet to be confirmed.
In recent months there have been quite a few reports of King Salman's imminent retirement.
Mohammad bin Salman, who turned 32 this year and is considered one of the most influential figures in the region, was, until less than three years ago, just another "prince" in the royal court of the Saudi royal family.
He now holds a long line of titles—Crown Prince, Minister of Defense, Deputy Prime Minister, Chairman of the Council for Political and Security Affairs and Chairman of the Council for Economic Affairs and Development.
Recently, Bin Salman received a new position—chairman of the country's anti-corruption committee.
His appointment paved the path for an unprecedented arrest operation: 208 people in the kingdom have been accused of corruption, including rich princes and senior government officials in the past and present.