King Salman of Saudi Arabia had surgery on July 23 to remove his gallbladder, days after being hospitalized on July 20, according to a statement from the royal court carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.
Days after Salman was hospitalized, renewing rumors about his health, the royal court announced that the 84-year-old monarch had undergone an operation.
Political experts believe that the sudden entry of King Salman to the hospital is closely related to the efforts of his son Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) to seize the seat of government in the Kingdom.
Some analysts say that the Saudi royal court's announcement about King Salman's illness is nothing but a new "plot" hatched by Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman to accelerate the process of his inauguration as king of Saudi Arabia before the upcoming presidential elections in the U.S.
In this regard, the Tehran Times interviewed Foad Ibrahim, the Saudi political analyst, to cast light on variables that determine the future of Saudi Arabia after the death of King Salman.
Ibrahim says that several key factors play a role in determining the fate of the throne in Saudi Arabia; the first is family consensus and tribal alliances.
"All Saudi kings have always tried to obtain consensus or at least a balanced degree of family agreement that makes him able to neutralize any internal power struggles," he explains.
He thinks that tribal alliances are determining, especially with tribes that played a role in uniting the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and formed unity to protect the kingdom.
Pointing to King’s charisma as another factor that makes a man closer to power, Ibrahim notes that the king plays a pivotal role in controlling and unifying the royal family.
He puts emphasis on the economic factor as another element that strengthens the position of the king. "What prevents popular unrest is not the people's loyalty to the system as it is rumored, but rather the system's ability to provide money to buy the silence of people and secure internal political stability," he maintains.
After the spread of the Arab Spring in Tunisia and Egypt, the late King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud initiated the disbursement of $ 32 billion in social benefits, a two-month salary payment, and increased funds for students and support for those in need.
Ibrahim, however, talks about American support as a pivotal factor that helps the king strengthen his throne's foundation.
He believes that no Saudi king can reach the throne without the support of the United States, and therefore the great princes are racing to present their children to the American administrations in order to obtain the president's "blessing."
"This was evident in King Fahd's case when he presented his son Abdul Aziz bin Fahd and Prince Nayef and his son Muhammad, King Abdullah, and his son Muteb, King Salman and his son Muhammad.
On the whole, the absence of any of these elements will lead to an uncertain situation in the kingdom.
Responding to a question about possible scenarios after the death of King Salman, Ibrahim envisions scenarios ranging from smooth power transfer, bloody power transfer, and anarchy.
In the first scenario, the Saudi dissident points to a normal and quiet transfer of power from King Salman to his son and crown prince, Muhammad, regarding that this scenario is still doubtful due to the circumstances in the country and the world.
According to Ibrahim, in the second scenario, because of fears about rebellion or alliances between a number of royal family wings or princes, Muhammad bin Salman may resort to a bloody elimination process against his rivals among the princes, and thus push the kingdom towards an exceptional stage and a sharp internal division.
The Saudi expert believes that this scenario is more likely in case President Trump loses the November elections.
In the third scenario, Ibrahim tells the Tehran Times that the absence of Salman, the possible loss of Trump, the absence of family consensus, and the weak economic performance (increased taxes, economic downturns, high unemployment, and poverty rates, etc.) would drive the country into chaos.
"This scenario is also not excluded but rather is suggested strongly in the light of facts that reveal the internal conflicts between the royal family wings, especially Muhammad bin Salman and his brothers on the one hand, and Mohammed bin Nayef, Ahmed bin Abdul Aziz and others on the other hand," Ibrahim explains.
While some political observers are of the opinion that Muhammad bin Salman can manage the kingdom after the death of his father, the Saudi critic says given his experiences in managing all country's affairs in the past three years (June 2017 - July 2020), Mohammed bin Salman lacks the tools of diplomatic management, and he is leading the country to political, economic and military disasters.
"The results of Bin Salman's policies appeared in the crisis with Qatar, and the detention of former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri, arresting a number of Saudi princes in the Ritz-Carlton hotel, the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, the killing of opponents in prisons (Abdullah Al-Hamid, Saleh Al-Shehhi, and others), the oil war that led to the price collapse below ten dollars, and finally entering into a confrontation with the royal family," he notes.
According to Ibrahim, if the same policies are followed, Muhammad bin Salman will be known as a man who pushed the kingdom into an abyss.
"His ability to eliminate his rivals requires resorting to the utmost force and cruelty and destroying any family harmony. It will be the end of the Al Saud rule and transition from Saudization to Salmanization of rule, or from the Saud's sons to Salman's sons," Ibrahim emphasizes.
The Saudi analyst warns about increasing foreign interference in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in case of external support for the next king, especially by American and British rulers.
Asked about a possible coup against bin Salman by the Saudi army, Ibrahim notes that after the last serious coup attempt in 1969, the Saudi army has had no political role.
"The princes of the al Saud became aware of the inherent danger of the military establishment and decided to alter its identity, composition, and fighting doctrine," he states.
The Saudi political activist thinks Saudi army no longer exists, saying it has been distributed between land, naval, and air forces.
"Military commanders were no longer from tribes nor allied to the royal family, but even the air force that played a central role in the 1969 coup underwent fundamental changes. So out of every five pilots, there are three princes," according to Ibrahim.
He adds that Saudi fighting doctrine is designed to defend the Saudi throne and has nothing to do with Arab or Islamic causes like Palestine or others.
About possibility of radical changes in Saudi Arabia after King Salman's death, Ibrahim says if the following possibilities (Salman's death and the shifting balance of power) are handled rationally and logically, the only way to calm the internal conditions and contain the dormant anger in society, and returning the consensus to the royal family is to launch a bunch of fundamental political reforms.
"Theses reforms start with the release of political prisoners, organizing legislative and municipal elections and end up with political, social and media openness," he argues.
The Saudi analyst predicts that the new presumptive king may resort to some reforms, at least in the first stage, until he strengthens his grip on power and extends his control over the country.
"But the previous oppression that has always been used by the Saudi kings for decades will return, and this is what occurred during King Abdullah's term," he concludes.