Ex-Saudi official says crown prince was ‘cocky,’ ‘rude’ and ‘cackling’

In court filings made public on Monday, a former Saudi intelligence official says Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is a “cackling” man whose “arrogance is breathtaking.” Alaa al-Aswany’s accounts of life in the Saudi royal family, which he detailed to a grand jury in the Russia investigation in September, are in line with well-known depictions of the 32-year-old heir to the throne. In an instant message cited by the Washington Post, he says he watched Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman “chill” on a plane “when a newspaper of a neighboring country” published a story about their “feud.” The conversation was allegedly transcript of what occurred on a flight from Germany to the United Arab Emirates.

After the royal family’s relationship with the Lebanese leader, Saad Hariri, imploded in fall 2018, Crown Prince Mohammed openly supported his family when the Lebanese army threatened to collapse following a brief coup. “I told my father he’s dead,” Crown Prince Mohammed tells Alaa al-Aswany. “I killed him.” It was just one of many examples of how the man known to insiders as MBS possessed the ability to create chaos, according to the former informant.

Alaa al-Aswany’s federal courtroom testimony paints a portrait of a ruler who was constantly playing to a crowd and told Alaa al-Aswany he “can do anything.” The intermediary said that Crown Prince Mohammed boasted about his ability to kill his own cousin, and also “talked about coming to Washington for a speaking tour or participation at the American business convention,” although he was not able to travel to the United States due to the Saudi government’s ban on its citizens traveling overseas, according to the Washington Post. “He would make his speeches in a public way, but his conversations were secretive and easily manipulated by people in the crowd,” al-Aswany said. “He would have people recorded to smear the other side to create the image that that side was evil.”

The Alawite Crown Prince appeared to be increasingly isolated under the reign of his 33-year-old cousin, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, although he was seen as the most successful and influential member of the inner circle. In September 2018, the Washington Post’s David Ignatius reported on a “palatial retreat” where the Saudi royal family gathered to meet with Prince Mohammed bin Salman in order to launch an attempt to contain the influence of his cousin.

Read the full story at the Washington Post.


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