Updated Oct 24, 2021 - World

Saudi dissident claims MBS said he could get "poison ring" to kill king

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends the opening of the Saudi Green Initiative Forum, via video link, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on October 23

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attending the Saudi Green Initiative Forum, via video link, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Saturday. Photo: Royal Court of Saudi Arabia/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A former senior Saudi intelligence official who worked with the U.S. on counterterrorism alleged to "60 Minutes" in an interview broadcast Sunday that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman discussed in 2014 killing the kingdom's then-monarch.

Why it matters: The claim by the exiled Saad al-Jabri, whom Saudi authorities describe as "a discredited former government official," that the crown prince, known as "MBS," allegedly said he could obtain a "ring from Russia" to carry out the attack, is one of several serious but unproven allegations he made on the CBS show.

Details: Al-Jabri accused MBS on "60 Minutes" of bragging at a 2014 meeting with Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, then head of intelligence as interior minister, that he could kill then-King Abdullah, to enable his father to take the throne in Saudi Arabia.

  • "He told him, 'I want to assassinate King Abdullah. I get a poison ring from Russia. It’s enough for me just to shake hand with him and he will be done,'" alleged Al-Jabri to CBS' Scott Pelley, adding that Saudi intelligence took the threat seriously.
  • Abdullah died in 2015 after being admitted to the hospital with a lung infection. His half-brother, MBS' father, King Salman, ascended the throne, per the BBC.

Of note: Al-Jabri didn't provide any evidence but said he watched a video recording of the meeting and that copies still exist.

  • He told CBS that he's recorded a "death video" that "reveals more secrets of the royal family" and some of the U.S., according to Pelley.
  • Al-Jabri provided a short, silent clip of the video, which he said "could be released" if he were killed. It includes a message to his imprisoned children, according to Pelley. He appealed to the Biden administration during the interview for help freeing his children.

For the record: Al-Jabri filed a federal lawsuit in the U.S. against MBS, alleging the crown prince tried to kill him in the United States and Canada.

  • Saudi authorities are suing Al-Jabri in the U.S. and Canada, claiming that he stole $500 million from the counterterrorism budget, an allegation he denies.
  • A judge in Canada has frozen Al-Jabri's assets pending the outcome of the case, citing "overwhelming evidence of fraud," according to CBS.

What they're saying: Former CIA acting director Michael Morell told "60 Minutes" that he felt an obligation to Al-Jabri, with whom he worked closely from 2010 to 2013, and the CIA should too because the Saudi dissident "saved American lives."

  • Morell cited intelligence from Al-Jabri that thwarted a 2010 al-Qaida plot to hide bombs inside two desktop printers that were headed to the U.S. in cargo on two planes that were "perhaps intended to explode over American cities."
  • He said it's "been hard" for U.S. presidents to stand up to MBS, noting that neither the Trump nor Biden administrations had publicly sanctioned the crown prince in response to Khashoggi's killing.
  • The State Department said in an emailed statement that Al-Jabri "was a valued partner in countering terrorism whose work helped save countless American and Saudi lives." The CIA did not immediately return Axios' request for comment.

Go deeper: U.S. firms carry on with Saudi dealings after sanctions leave MBS unscathed

Editor's note: This article has been updated with more details from the interview, including comment from Morell and the State Department, and further context.

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