Iran’s state media has criticised changes to regional rival Saudi Arabia’s royal line of succession announced on Wednesday calling them a “soft coup.”

The move sparked critical coverage in Iran, where state television ran a headline calling the move a “soft coup”.

The semi-official news agency Fars dubbed it a “political earthquake” and wrote that Nayef had been “ousted”.

The website of English-language news agency Press TV ran a lengthy article that denounced Mohammed bin Salman’s hand in policy, including the “bloody military campaign” in Yemen and the “extensive and jarring economic shake-up” currently underway in Saudi Arabia.

In an interview conducted last month, the Saudi prince had suggested that Iran wanted to wrest control of Islam’s holiest sites away from Riyadh and that there could be no dialogue with the regional Shia power.

“Instead we will work so that the battle is for them in Iran, not in Saudi Arabia,” Mohammed bin Salman told a reporter from the Saudi network MBC. The comments sparked an apparent response from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who dubbed the Saudi leadership “idiots” whose policies would lead to “certain downfall”.

But it may not just be Iran that has doubts about the new crown prince — many in Washington knew and respected Mohammed bin Nayef as he had helped lead Saudi Arabia’s campaign against Al Qaeda for years.

And there may be some in Saudi Arabia who have their own doubts, too. Iranian news outlets pointed to one anonymous Twitter account, which claims to share secrets from the Saudi elite and is now claiming that King Salman will step down within days. That account has frequently criticised Mohammed bin Salman, suggesting his impulsiveness could be dangerous.

By arrangement with The Washington Post

Published in Dawn, June 22nd, 2017

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