Alwaght- A US court has issued summons to the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and 13 others for questions around a plot to assassinate former top Saudi intelligence agent Saad al-Jabri who was reportedly targeted in a foiled assassination attempt.
The US District Court for the District of Columbia issued the summons on Friday, a day after Saad al-Jabri filed the lawsuit accusing Prince Mohammed of sending a hit squad to Canada to try and kill him.
The case appears to represent a fresh challenge to the bin Salman’s ambitions as he stands on the top of the ruling Al Saud family. This comes while after the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, an outspoken bin Salman critic, at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018, the Western support to Prince Mohammed which is key to his ascension to the throne in the Arab kingdom has considerably fallen.
A black box called al-Jabri
Saad al-Jabri was an aide to former Crown Prince Mohammad bin Nayef who was dismissed and replaced by bin Salman in June 2017. He at the same led the Saudi intelligence under bin Nayef. Reports suggest that he holds documents that can be used to fully eliminate bin Nayef and other rivals to bin Salman. At the same time, the reports say, the documents can be used against the de facto ruler bin Salman.
According to a security official and former diplomat from Saudi Arabia, al-Jabri also holds “very sensitive” dealings of top officials including King Salman bin Abdulaziz and also his son Mohammed. The documents date back to the time the current king was the ruler of Riyadh province.
In 2017, when bin Salman removed his cousin bin Nayef from the post, al-Jabri was out of the country. Bin Nayef then was put under house arrest and his assets frozen. A fear to go through the same fate pushed al-Jabri back from returning to the country.
Khaled al-Jabri, Saad’s elder son, told Reuters that initially his father’s relation with bin Salman was warm until bin Salman’s insiders and some with links to the UAE accused al-Jabri of supporting Muslim Brotherhood, a movement banned in the Arab world. This caused a gloomy atmosphere against him, to an extent that al-Jabri had to flee to Canada.
After bin Nayef in early March was put under house arrest, two sons of al-Jabri were also arrested. Two months later, his brother was also arrested. The arrest of the al-Jabri’s family members is part of a campaign of pressure to force him back home.
Al-jabri is now like a black box carrying many secrets and precious information for bin Salman who tries to bring him back home or assassinate him to prevent the troubles al-Jabri could make in the future with reliance on his information.
The US court and its implications
An American court sent summons to bin Salman following a lawsuit filed by al-Jabri, asking the crown prince to attend for questions. Aside from legal consequences, the move can create problems to its target bin Salman.
The filing of the complaint and the sending of the summons come while recently European countries expressed their concerns about the unclear fate of bin Nayef. European People’s Party, EU Parliament’s largest bloc, last week called on Riyadh to secure the life of bin Nayef and to immediately disclose his whereabouts. This demand, intensifying the pressures on the crown prince, comes as recently a number of the US Congress lawmakers as well as Canadian government officials confirmed the assassination attempt and condemned it.
Already severely hit by the Khashoggi assassination scandal, now bin Salman finds the road to ascending the throne even more bumpy and tough. US President Donald Trump cannot have his back as he did in the Khashoggi case. After all, now only a few months separate Trump from the November elections and any intervention in the court in favor of bin Salman would leave irreparable impacts on him in the presidential race. Trump would very likely refrain from cases that would slim his chance to reelection as now his position is at stake and he can lose to his Democratic rival Joe Biden.
The conditions could toughen for bin Salman if Biden wins the November 3 election. Biden is not much in favor of bin Salman's assumption of the king post. A Biden-headed White House, along with Bin Nayef and Al-Jabri’s close relationship with some power circles in the US, and also the European will to see Prince Mohammed off the crown prince post can more than ever endanger bin Salman’s position.
Also, unsuccessful record at home, the kingdom’s failure to win a highly costly war against neighboring Yemen after five years, and also the instable health condition of the king that could spark competition in the coming months among the royals are factors that, if combined, can put bin Salman on heavily shaky ground.
Therefore, the US court summons to the crown prince in addition to the legal consequences can carry serious risks to bin Salman and his ambition towards the throne as they come at a sensitive time in which bin Salman is under pressure from foreign sides and also is facing questions and pressures at home over his performance during the three years of holding the crown prince post.