Sources say the two Saudi royals arrested Friday were thinking of scheming to block Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's accession to the throne should his father, King Salman, die or become incapacitated. The sources tell the Guardian Prince Ahmed bin Abdul Aziz, the last living full brother of the king, and Mohammed bin Nayef, the king's nephew and former crown prince who was ousted from the line of succession in 2017 when Mohammed bin Salman was appointed, were talking about trying to use something called the allegiance council, a procedural body founded in 2007, to block bin Salman's rise. They were allegedly trying to install Prince Ahmed, who sits on the council, as chairman, which would give him more influence over the nomination of new Saudi leaders.
But, as the newspaper notes, "The alleged discussions are not believed to have developed and appear to fall short of claims that the two men were planning a coup against the crown prince." Even so, they were thought to be facing charges of treason, though there is also speculation this week the ultimate charges may not quite reach that level. The arrests, which were directed by bin Salman after details of the alleged conversations were passed along to the royal court, also prompted speculation that the king may be in poor health and the crown prince possibly trying to clear his way to the throne, but King Salman was pictured receiving diplomats Sunday. Al Jazeera notes bin Salman's "crackdown" widened over the weekend, with dozens more interior ministry officials and senior army officers being detained. (Read more Saudi Arabia stories.)