Hailing the next Saudi king


The Saudi press has been awash with praise for the "visionary" (but stupid) Prince Nayef who has just been named as crown prince - i.e. next in line to the throne. Indeed, if the Saudi reports are to be believed, world leaders are also overwhelmed with joy at the news of his appointment.

As John Burgess notes in his Crossroads Arabia blog, "It never hurts to be on the good side of a future ruler. I’m sure that businesses, particularly those with government contracts, will be taking out full page ads commending the prince ..."

During his 36 years as interior minister Nayef has overseen the extraction of confessions through torture, as well as the execution of numerous adulterers, suspected witches, drug offenders, etc. 

For a long time he denied that the kingdom had an al-Qaeda presence in its midst and in 2001 he initially claimed that Saudi militants were not involved in the September 11 attacks on the United States, blaming the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and/or Zionists instead.

The terrorism problem which he eventually had to confront was partly one of his own making, since his efforts to enforce Wahhabi values helped to perpetuate a climate in which Islamic militancy could flourish, while suppressing liberal voices that could have played a vital role in challenging extremism.

My one and only encounter with the prince in the flesh came in 2003, at a news conference following a series of bomb attacks on housing compounds in Riyadh.

Prince Nayef announced triumphantly that "some people" had been arrested in connection with the attacks, but then seemed astonished when asked how many had been caught.

He was asked three times during the press conference and gave slightly different answers each time. After some prompting from an official sitting nearby he said the number was four, adding that these people were not among the 19 being sought but were "from the same group" and had "the same ideology".

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 30 October 2011.