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The crown prince. Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty

At minimum, the future of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman seems likely to be a significant weakening of his signature policy — a reform of the Kingdom's economy. And he will lose many of his hard-won friendships abroad, a casualty of the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and the widespread suspicion that he either ordered or was aware it would occur.

What to watch: Now the question is whether the Crown Prince maintains his hold on the throne as successor to his father, King Salman. That may hinge on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a regional antagonist, who says that he will reveal everything his country knows about the murder tomorrow.

If Erdogan does so, and it includes tapes that Turkish officials say they possess of what they call a 7-minute murder, MBS — as Prince Mohammad is known — may find his sure grip much-weakened.

  • Until last year, it was assumed that then-Crown Prince Mohammad bin Nayef had an unassailable hold on the succession, notes Helima Croft, a former CIA officer and an expert on Saudi Arabia with RBC Capital Markets.
  • But then Salman sidelined Nayef for his son.

"If the crisis deepens (for example if the alleged audio tapes comes out), then his internal position may grow more precarious," Croft tells Axios. "The internal workings of the house of Saud are very opaque, but the family seems to place a high premium on self preservation."  

  • An MBS exit is "very plausible if Trump is forced to suspend arms sales because of congressional and public pressure and U.S. business also comes under continuing public pressure or thinks the risks are too high," the Atlantic Council's Mathew Burrows tells Axios. "There are a lot of other princes who could take over."

Be smart: Erdogan might release the tapes if, after a long crackdown against journalists, he likes finally being seen internationally as a good guy.

Others speaking with Axios on MBS's fate:

  • Ian Bremmer, president of Eurasia Group: "I’d be surprised if Salman decides to cut him, but that doesn’t necessarily protect him from internal fighting over the coming months, especially if the kingdom externally isn’t faring well." 
  • Ivo Daalder, president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs: "The King put MBS in charge of reforming the intelligence services in the wake of the Khashoggi killing. And everything Riyadh has done up to this point is to make sure the killing isn’t traced back to the Crown Prince."

Go deeper

Biden's Day 1 challenges: The immigration reset

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President-elect Biden has an aggressive Day One immigration agenda that relies heavily on executive actions to undo President Trump's crackdown.

Why it matters: It's not that easy. Trump issued more than 400 executive actions on immigration. Advocates are fired up. The Supreme Court could threaten the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and experts warn there could be another surge at the border.

Broncos and 49ers the latest NFL teams impacted by coronavirus crisis

From left, Denver Broncos quarterbacks Drew Lock, Brett Rypien and Jeff Driskel during an August training session at UCHealth Training Center in Englewood, Colorado. Photo: Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the NFL season into chaos, with all Denver Broncos quarterbacks sidelined, the San Francisco 49ers left without a home or practice ground and much of the Baltimore Ravens team unavailable, per AP.

Driving the news: The Broncos confirmed in a statement Saturday night that quarterbacks Drew Lock, Brett Rypien and Blake Bortles were identified as "high-risk COVID-19 close contacts" and will follow the NFL's mandatory five-day quarantine, making them ineligible for Sunday's game against New Orleans.

Updated 14 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: McConnell temporarily halts in-person lunches for GOP caucus.
  3. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in DecemberAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  4. Education: U.S. public school enrollment drops as pandemic persists.
  5. Cities: Surge in cases forces San Francisco to impose curfew — Los Angeles County issues stay-at-home order, limits gatherings.
  6. Sports: NFL bans in-person team activities Monday, Tuesday due to COVID-19 surge — NBA announces new coronavirus protocols.
  7. World: London police arrest more than 150 during anti-lockdown protests — Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.