Late June brought a shocker in the Middle East: a shake-up in Saudi Arabia's line of succession, with King Salman's nephew stripped of his next-in-line status and the title of crown prince handed to Salman's 31-year-old son, Mohammed bin Salman. Now, a second jolt via a New York Times report that describes the ouster as a much more plotted (by the new crown prince) and contentious one than has been reported. One caveat: Its account comes by way of unnamed US officials and persons close to the royal family, and official comments from a senior Saudi official deny the claims and paint a copacetic picture. In the Times' telling, Mohammed bin Nayef was called to the palace on June 20 under the pretense of meeting with the king.
Sources say he instead had his cell phone taken from him and was held in a room into the wee hours until he gave in to the badgering of royal court officials who were prodding him to relinquish his post. Other royal court officials apparently focused on the Allegiance Council, a group of princes who are tasked with greenlighting any succession changes; the council was reportedly told the 57-year-old suffered from a drug addiction. That might not be entirely off-base, per a former CIA officer who believes the painkiller regimen Mohammed bin Nayef was put on after a 2009 assassination attempt has turned out to be an addictive one. Reuters is out with a similar account that deviates slightly: Its sources say Mohammed bin Nayef actually met with the king that night, who told him to step down and cited his addiction, which "dangerously affects your decisions." (Read more Saudi Arabia stories.)