Wed Jul 26, 2017 05:28PM
Saudi Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (Photo by AFP)
Saudi Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (Photo by AFP)

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, who became the next in line for the throne by sweeping aside his father's nephew Mohammed bin Nayef, is now planning to secure his path to power by removing the kingdom’s National Guard Minister Mutaib bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud , according to a new report.

Wary of a possible coup down the road, the 33-year-old prince thinks removing Abdullah and dismantling the powerful national guard allows him to take control over at least 80 percent of the country’s military and security forces, the Lebanese al-Nabaa TV reported Wednesday.

Under the new plan, the national guard would lose its ministerial status and operate instead under the command of the Defense Ministry, which is also headed by Salman.

However, the task only looks easy on paper since the national guard has evolved from a small government entity into an influential organization that specializes in protecting the royal family from internal dangers such as, ironically enough, a coup, the report added.

Founded in 1911, the force entered its golden era in the early 1960s, thanks to strong support from the late King Abdullah.

Mutaib entered the national guard in 1990 and was appointed as its new commander some 20 years later. The powerful prince managed to overhaul the force through a $3 billion program that began less than a year later.

In 2013, he was appointed the minister of the national guard, a position that was solely created for him.

Saudi National Guard Minister Mutaib bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (R) walks with Britain's Prince Charles in Riyadh airport, February 17, 2014.

The guards are extremely loyal to Mutaib, making him a tough opponent even for a hothead young royal like Salman, who emerged victorious from a long-running power struggle with 57-year-old Nayef.

The brash son of ailing King Salman was declared the new Crown Prince on June 21, after the so-called Allegiance Council, a body of princes who oversee succession changes, voted 31 to 3 to approve his replacement.

Following Nayef’s removal from power, Riyadh launched what appeared to be a smear campaign to “finish him off,” to borrow the words of British analyst David Hearst.

According to a report by The New York Times, the former crown prince was forced to make way for Salman’s rise to power after a carefully planned plot that involved inviting the diabetic prince to a palace and keeping him there until he was filmed giving an oath of allegiance to his younger cousin.

“To add insult to injury, there followed a media campaign defaming him as a morphine addict,” Hearst wrote in a Middle East Eye article on Monday.

However, there is a consensus among experts that it takes much more than what Salman tried against Nayef to bring Mutaib down.