Before midnight, Mohammed bin Nayef was told he was going to meet the king and was led into another room, where royal court officials took away his phones and pressured him to give up his posts as crown prince and interior minister, according to United States officials and an associate of the royal family.
At first, he refused. But as the night wore on, the prince, a diabetic who suffers from the effects of a 2009 assassination attempt by a suicide bomber, grew tired.
Meanwhile, royal court officials called members of the Allegiance Council, a body of princes who are supposed to approve changes to the line of succession. Some were told that Mohammed bin Nayef had a drug problem and was unfit to be king, according to an associate of the royal family.
One American official and one adviser to a Saudi royal said Mohammed bin Nayef opposed the embargo on Qatar, a stand that probably accelerated his ouster.
Sometime before dawn, Mohammed bin Nayef agreed to resign. A video shot afterward shows Mohammed bin Salman kissing his hand.
The extent of support for the elevation of Mohammed bin Salman in the family remains unclear. Saudi state news media reported that 31 of the 34 members of the Allegiance Council supported the change, but analysts said many royals are hesitant to vote against the king’s wishes.
Some United States officials and well-connected Saudis say there are rumblings of discontent, and analysts have pointed out hints.
Neither King Salman nor his son attended the Group of 20 summit meeting in Hamburg, Germany, even though one of the two men had attended each of the last three meetings. Analysts say that family disputes may have kept the men at home or that they did not want to face criticism for the isolation they and three other Arab states imposed on Qatar.This story by the NYT is a shot across al-Saud's bow, a companion to WaPo's story Sunday that identified the United Arab Emirates as orchestrating the hack "of Qatari government news and social media sites in order to post incendiary false quotes attributed to Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani, in late May that sparked the ongoing upheaval between Qatar and its neighbors, according to U.S. intelligence officials."
NYT's coup story coincides with the "Gang of Four" (KSA, UAE, Bahrain & Egypt) blinking in their standoff with Qatar. (See Rick Gladstone's "Countries That Broke Ties With Qatar Indicate Some Flexibility on Demands.")
Mohammed bin Salman is smart enough to know that he is being delegitimized in the prestige press by anonymous quotes from "U.S. intelligence officials." The prestige press is also starting to come out against MBS's war in Yemen. Opposition is developing in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.
It can't come at a worse time for Saudi Arabia which is on the verge of an IPO for Saudi Aramco.