Two well-placed Saudi sources told MEE on condition of anonymity that Abu Dhabi’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, is advising Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud on a two-pronged approach to become the United States’ preferred choice as the next ruler of Saudi Arabia.
The first Saudi source said Bin Zayed has told Bin Salman that to be accepted by the Americans he must “end the rule of Wahhabism” – a reference to the ultra-conservative brand of Islam practised in Saudi Arabia.
Bin Zayed, the de factor ruler of the UAE, has also told Bin Salman that he must open a “strong channel of communication” with Israel if he is to be Washington’s preferred candidate to be king.
The second Saudi source said Bin Salman is eager to win the support of Washington as he has recently told close associates “he will complete the mission of becoming king before the end of the year”.
Bin Salman is 30 years old and has risen swiftly in prominence and power since his appointment to his position early in 2015.
He is second in line to the throne, his country’s defence minister, and also heads the royal court of his rival and first in line to the throne, crown prince and interior minister, Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz al-Saud.
While Bin Salman’s reign has so far been blighted by the war in neighbouring Yemen, the prince has increasingly become the international face of Saudi Arabia through his launching of Vision 2030 – a plan to diversify the kingdom’s economy away from reliance on oil revenues.