Saudi cousin of Mohammed bin Salman threatens West with ‘jihad and martyrdom’

Credit: Reuters Photographer Louiza Vradi/Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

By Middle East Eye

Saud al-Shaalan, tribal leader and grandson of King Abdulaziz, issues warning as tensions spike with US over Opec+ oil production cut

A cousin of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has issued a violent threat against the West amid souring relations over a decision by Opec+ to cut oil production.

In a message “to the West”, Saud al-Shaalan is seen in a video circulating on social media saying “anybody who challenges the existence of this kingdom, we are all projects of jihad and martyrdom”. The prince is heard issuing his warning in English and French.

Saud al-Shaalan is a tribal leader and grandson of King Abdulaziz, the founder of Saudi Arabia, according to Saudi human rights advocate Abdullah Alaoudh.

His intervention comes as relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia have hit a nadir. With energy prices rising following Russia’s February invasion of Ukraine, Washington has lobbied members of the Opec+ oil cartel, particularly Saudi Arabia, to increase production.

US President Joe Biden travelled to the kingdom in July, despite previously promising to turn Saudi Arabia into a pariah following the 2018 murder of Jamal Khashoggi, and his administration briefed media that they believed the Saudis would ramp up production.

Instead, a small increase was followed by a decision last week to cut oil output from Opec+ by two million barrels a day, which could raise prices globally.

Washington has reacted furiously, accusing Saudi Arabia of helping Russia to relieve the pressure of sanctions placed on it over the Ukraine war.

The White House said on Wednesday that it was looking to work with Congress on assessing Washington’s ties with Riyadh. Lawmakers have offered up a number of measures, including halting weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and opening up Opec to litigation in the US.

“In recent weeks, the Saudis conveyed to us – privately and publicly – their intention to reduce oil production, which they knew would increase Russian revenues and blunt the effectiveness of sanctions,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said on Thursday.

He added that other Opec members told the US privately they disagreed with Riyadh’s decision, “but felt coerced to support Saudi’s direction”. Kirby’s statement came after a defiant Saudi press release that expressed its “total rejection” of the outpouring of condemnation from the US and accused the Biden administration of asking the Saudis to delay the production cut until after the midterm elections in the United States.

Alaoudh, who belongs to the Democracy in the Arab World Now group set up by Khashoggi, said on Twitter that Saud al-Shaalan’s video showed “a direct cousin” of Mohammed bin Salman threatening the West with “jihad and martyrdom”.

However, Saudi lobbyist Ali Shihabi said the prince was a minor royal with no official role.

“This is a private individual who made a personal statement that has nothing to do with the state,” he tweeted.