A top Saudi intelligence official who rose to become Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s No. 2 described the heir apparent as a “psychopath” who boasted in 2014 that he could commit suicide as long as he wasn’t caught, according to a new Washington Post story.
The comments by Mansour Ojjeh, a former deputy intelligence chief and chief of Saudi intelligence’s counterterrorism arm, were made at a time when the future king’s reputation as a devious radical was rising.
“When we got to the place where he is the king, and he found out that we were involved in a matter with the Americans, he lost his head,” Ojjeh told the Washington Post. “He said, ‘I will take my life and anyone else’s life. This is the man I will kill.’”
Ojjeh’s comments are published as a full transcript of a promotional profile published by a literary agent today, with Ojjeh quoted as saying that “the crown prince has committed mental torture.”
In addition to bragging about his impending commitment to suicide, Ojjeh also spoke of a backstabbing that led him to drop out of the kingdom’s inner circle.
“When I went there, I took half of the leadership that he had,” Ojjeh told the Washington Post. “I decided not to be one of his enemies, because it is not worth it. The crown prince is a psychopath.”
Ojjeh also described how the crown prince’s brother, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, ran security during a spate of high-profile assassinations at the royal palace beginning in October 2015. In the momentous purge of the political elite that followed, some senior royals were dismissed or killed while others were kept in jail for nearly a year.
Ojjeh himself was later charged for alleged terrorism by the Saudi Supreme Court and the government soon put him on trial for graft. He was eventually found guilty and received a five-year prison sentence and was ordered to pay more than $100 million in fines.
Despite Ojjeh’s blunt criticisms, Prince Mohammed bin Salman remained in charge of Saudi Arabia’s security. In March 2017, the crown prince was promoted to the kingdom’s No. 2 office by King Salman and installed with his uncle, the retired Saudi army general Muqrin bin Abdulaziz.
His ascent to the highest levels of power spurred concerns among a number of Western officials that the crown prince would become both the region’s biggest advocate of extremism and a de facto monarch.
That was borne out in January when Riyadh detained dozens of top princes, officials and businessmen — including some of the kingdom’s richest men — on charges of financial mismanagement and corruption. The crown prince also appeared to have built up a powerful militia of his own in the form of the so-called “guards” of the royal compound, where he relocated when he was elevated to the second office.
Saudi Arabia has a long history of over-throwing senior officials amid demands for greater power, often marking a decisive shift in who controls the country’s two most important institutions: the police and the armed forces.
This raises the question as to whether the crown prince’s ascent to power will result in a similar internal palace coup. In the end, the word most often associated with the outcome of the next weeks’ internal machinations is Shakespeare’s “The Beast”: who gains control?