A letter has been circulating among members of the Saudi royal family calling for a replacement of the country’s king and deputy crown prince, Middle East Eye reported Tuesday. The four-page letter, reportedly penned by an unnamed grandson of the late King Abdul-Aziz Ibn Saud early last month, warned that the royal family may be losing its sway in the country.
“We appeal to all the sons of King Abdul-Aziz – from the eldest Prince Bandar to the youngest Prince Muqrin – to summon an emergency meeting with all the family to discuss the situation and do everything that is need to save the country,” the letter reportedly said.
News of a growing internal rift comes as Saudi Arabia has experienced extreme economic and foreign policy challenges. While the country has remained stable, tumbling oil prices have widened a gap between revenue and spending. A Citibank analyst told online news outlet Middle East Eye that there would be a 20 percent revenue shortfall.
Saudi Arabia has also expanded its regional involvement in recent years as the country has become among the world's major arms importers. The kingdom is currently engaged in conflicts meant to counter Iran’s perceived growing influence across the Middle East. In Yemen, Saudi Arabia has seen only minor gains against Houthi rebel forces, believed to be backed by Iran, while a U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State group, also known by ISIS or ISIL, has seen only limited success.
The letter criticized the recent military endeavors as “totally miscalculated,” and said they have tarnished people’s trust in their leadership. The internal disagreement likely reflects a struggle among the members of the royal family over a generational shift in leadership. Past leaders, as well as the current King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud Salman, have been sons of the country's founder, Ibn Saud. But Salman is expected to hand the reigns to his son, who is a grandson of Ibn Saud. The decision is likely to be contested by the others in the royal family, as 13 of Ibn Saud's sons are still alive.
Salman ascended the throne in 2015 following the death of his predecessor, Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, and is 79 years old.
The source of the letter – who Middle East Eye spoke with on condition of anonymity – said some in the royal family would like to see changes made to save the country from collapse, while others are wary of publicizing internal struggles for fear of losing the public's support. The letter suggested handing power back to some of the royal family’s older members.
“[We have neglected] the marginalization of the elders and the carriers of experience, as well as the surrender of command to the new generations of foolish dreamers who are acting behind the facade of an incapable king,” the letter read.