With one foot in the grave for months, Crown Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz, 83 or 85, is clinging to his royal post as next in line to the geriatric throne. His health has declined further since May 2, when DEBKA-Net-Weekly 347 reported he was dying. When Prince Sultan arrived at his Geneva villa on Oct. 16 with a huge retinue, our sources report he had to be carried to bed and was too weak to talk except for a few mumbled words.
The Crown Prince is believed to have contracted acute bone atrophy on top of his longstanding intestinal cancer. But as long as there is breath in his body, he won’t quit.
Last May, Prince Mishal bin Abdulaziz, head of the Allegiance Council, visited him in Geneva and appealed to him to step down. But after consulting his 17 sons, he declined. King Abdullah had created the Allegiance Council as a moderator among the rival princely clans and regulator of the choice of king and crown prince. The haphazard succession system was badly in need of tidying up to keep the feuding princes in line. Prince Mishal is about the same age as Sultan and preceded him as defense minister in the 1940s and early 1950s.
But Sultan’s sons feared that if he vacated the No. 2, position, their Sudeiri offshoot of the royal house would be swept aside by the king and supplanted by the rival Faisals.
Then in June, to his doctors’ astonishment, the ailing Crown Prince was energized enough by the challenge to rise from his sickbed and return to his duties in Riyadh.
King Abdullah wants Saud al Faisal to succeed him
A few weeks ago, he suffered a severe relapse and his doctors sent him back to Geneva.
Again, King Abdullah sent a royal messenger, this time it was his half-brother Prince Mu’tib to try and persuade the crown prince to retire.
He was armed with a proposition: If Sultan acceded, his son Prince Khaled bin Sultan would be appointed to the high post of defense minister, his father’s long-held position. The king pledged that none of Sultan’s sons would lose out on the deal and would in fact be promoted in the royal hierarchy. This promise would also apply to Prince Bandar bin Sultan, who is not considered a full-blooded scion of the royal house, but was gifted enough to serve for more than two decades as Saudi ambassador to Washington and officiates at present as national security adviser.
Prince Mu’tib like the messenger before him was sent off with a flea in his ear. Sultan turned down the king’s offer saying that as long as there was breath in his body, he would not quit.
Abdullah, another octogenarian, dearly wants the post of Crown Prince vacated while he is in full command of his faculties and fit enough to convene the Allegiance Council and choose Sultan’s successor from outside the Sudairi clan. He is determined in particular to prevent the most powerful Sudairi, interior minister Prince Nayef, from becoming next in line to the throne.
Relations between Abdullah and Nayef are correct. However, Abdullah is loath to have a Sudairi succeed him and would prefer the foreign minister, Prince Saud al Faisal.