WASHINGTON — U.S. intelligence officials told President Barack Obama in 2014 that Mohammed bin Salman, the deputy crown prince who became king last year, could murder his country’s leader by a combination of drone strikes and assassination attempts, according to two former senior U.S. intelligence officials.
The reports of potential assassination attempts were presented as possible “justification” for an attack against Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who was the likely target, two former officials said. The officials, who were not authorized to speak about the matter publicly, provided more details about a now-familiar tale of Saudi Arabia’s dangerous transition from one young heir apparent to another.
Nearly two years ago, a Saudi official approached a CIA agent in Riyadh, asking for a briefing about Mohammed bin Nayef’s movement and whereabouts. The CIA agent, not wanting to lead a team that sent operatives to kill the prince, declined, this person said.
The CIA agent obtained details about Mohammed bin Nayef’s movements and whereabouts that same day. The details were not in the agency’s database of Saudi intelligence, so the agent presented them to the president. Obama asked for a briefing on the possible attacks on Mohammed bin Nayef, but the details were not included in his request.
“All we have was the general description and did you want to see the details,” an unnamed intelligence official said.