Saudi King Salman plans to step down in about a week’s time and name his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), as his successor, according to a report.
After the move, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, 81, will continue only as a ceremonial figurehead, the Daily Mail reported citing a source close to the Saudi royal family.
The move will likely take place next week “unless something dramatic happens”, the source claimed.
Meanwhile, a senior Saudi official dismissed the mounting speculation that the Crown Prince will soon ascend to the throne.
“There is no possibility whatsoever that the king will abdicate,” Bloomberg quoted an unnamed official as saying.
Saudi kings usually stay in power even when bad health prevents them from carrying out their job, the official said, on condition of anonymity. He noted the example of King Fahd, who stayed on as monarch until his death in 2005 despite being gravely ill in the last few years of his reign.
The source quoted by Daily Mail’s report said that once the transfer of power is complete, the new 32-year-old king will ramp up hostilities against Saudi Arabia’s bitter rival Iran, with fears of a possible military clash.
Mr Salman will also target Hezbollah, the Shia militia in Lebanon that is backed by Iran, the source said.
“MBS’s plan is to start the fire in Lebanon, but he’s hoping to count on Israeli military backing. He has already promised Israel billions of dollars in direct financial aid if they agree,” the source was quoted as saying, referring to the crown prince by his initials.
If what the report claims is accurate, then the transfer of power will be the final step in Mr Salman’s power grab. It will also come close on the heels of the arrest of more than 40 Saudi princes and officials in a corruption probe, which is being seen by many quarters as the Crown Prince ridding himself of rivals.