Mujtahidd’s tweets about King Salman and MBS: take with a grain of salt

So @Mujtahidd issued a series of tweets about King Salman’s physical and mental health condition and his immediate entourage on February 1 and completed it a couple of days later with some corrections and addition information.  Before we dive into it, let us have a quick reminder of who Mujtahidd is and why what he says matters.

The answer to the first question is that we don’t know who he or she is.  The twitter account @Mujtahidd (meaning “diligent”) first appeared around 2012-13, in the reign of King Abdullah and started tweeting insider information from within the royal palace.  The tone of it was clearly hostile to the Al Saud regime and sympathetic to Islamist movements.  London-based Saudi dissident Saad al-Faqih has long been suspected of being behind it, but that has never been proven.  We quickly established that @Mujtahidd’s information was reliable but not deep.  He would announce government reshuffles or the king’s movements for the coming days before they were officially announced, and the leaks were often borne out by the events.  People noticed, and Mujtahidd gained a broad following in Saudi Arabia, where twitter usage was booming.  But when it came to more closely-guarded information, concerning, say, the king’s health or relations within his immediate entourage, Mujtahidd was far less reliable.

Whatever access he had, he lost it with the arrival of King Salman on the throne early 2015.  Nowadays most of what he says is a mixture of conspiracy theories, his own opinions and reports from Western media.  The loss of reliability, however, did not translate into a loss of influence; in fact the number of his followers grew from around 1.6 million in 2015 to more than 2 million today — which is why what he says matters.  In spring 2017 the account tried to drum up street demonstrations in Saudi Arabia against the policies of MBS.  This was enough to draw massive police presence on the streets, but no demonstrations happened.

The general thrust of this series of tweets of February 1 is that the king is in poor health, senile, unaware of his surroundings and totally controlled by MBS.  This does not fit with reliable reports we have received from private sources to the effect that King Salman on a number of occasions intervened directly to overrule some of MBS’ policies or make him change course.

The series of tweets opens by claiming that MBS is keeping his father busy with “parties, women and card games” so that the king will not ask about MBS’ mother, Fahda bint Falah al-Hathleen “who was thrown in jail by her son”.  This has been particularly the case “since Salman was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2012”.

“Fahda has been mentally ill since her husband became king.  MBS kept her and her brothers in jail since.  The mental disease she has is hereditary and there are signs that MBS and his full brothers have it.  Part of the symptoms of her malady is that she keeps insulting MBS and threatens to kill him, which is why her son has put under strong drugs”.

None of this is credible.  King Salman suffering from Alzheimer’s has been one of Mujtahidd’s long-standing and totally unsubstantiated claims.  Likewise the allegation that MBS threw his mother Fahda in jail.  The crown prince is very close to his mother; her influence on him and on his father was a key factor in his stellar rise.  We received reports in summer 2017 that MBS had fallen out with her because she criticised some of his actions, and stopped visiting her as often — but that is as far as it went.  There is no indication whatsoever that he did, or even could, throw her in jail.

“The four people closest to King Salman are Nayef al-Zahrani, the clown who entertains his grandchildren, a person from Najran named Shdayyid who makes the king laugh by imitating voices, Abdulrahman al-Assaf, Fadha’s maternal uncle, whose role is just to be the fourth player for card games, and Fahd al-Hathleen, Fahda’s brother, who is in charge of the king’s camels.

“These four people play cards with the king during weeknights, sometimes accompanied by some of the grandsons of King Saud.  On weekends, the king plays with some of his Bedouin servants.  It is not clear why MBS changes the crew on the weekends.”

Note that Mujtahidd seems to contradict himself here, claiming that MBS threw Fahda’s brothers in jail while one of them plays cards with the king every night of the week.

“Other people allowed to see the king regularly are his personal doctor and nurse, MBS’ wife and children and the wife and children of his full bother Khaled, the personal guard of the king, some officials of the royal medical clinic, and private servants.

“MBS does not allow anyone else to see the king, including the king’s brothers and nephews and other senior Al Sauds”.


According to Mujtahidd, “in addition to Alzheimer’s”, King Salman is suffering from back pains for which he was operated in 2009, arterial fibrillation and arrhythmia, which necessitated surgery and a pacemaker. He suffers bouts of anxiety and anger when his memory comes back for which he is given Xanax, insomnia for which he is given zolpidem, and other drugs to treat his heart condition and prevent strokes.  He also suffers “terrible pains” in the knees and was supposed to have knee replacement surgery but doctors recommended against it “because his heart and brain cannot take it.”  “The medical team in charge of the king’s health is led by Dr Saleh al-Qahtani, and a team from Cleveland led by Dr Curtis Rimmerman who are paid a billion riyals a year [$232m!].  They take care of the king, MBS and some of the detained princes”. “Dr Saleh al-Qahtani was brought in by his relative Saud al-Qahtani, and it is said that Saud is working with Dr Saleh to hasten Salman’s end and make MBS king”.

We have no information to confirm to contradict the list of diseases above — though, as we said earlier, the Alzheimer’s claim is not credible.  The Saud al-Qahtani (@saudq1978) mentioned above is a close adviser to MBS, his social media guru and his unofficial spokesman.  He was implicated in the Khashoggi case and officially sacked with other officials in November 2018, though it is very likely he still advises MBS behind the scenes. Mujtahidd’s claims about his role are usually fantastically conspiratorial.  It should be noted that the author of these tweets has a tendency to attribute dark machinations to the people around senior Al Sauds.  Back in the days of King Abdullah his bête noir was Khaled al-Tuwayjiri, then head of the Royal Diwan, whom he blamed for all that was wrong in the country.  There is no reason to take Mujtahidd’s claims about Saud al-Qahtani any more seriously.

“MBS himself has been using drugs since he was 20. He started with light stuff, but his usage got heavier over time.  This activated his inherited mental troubles and is beginning to show as paranoia, inability to concentrate and anxiety.  He takes a cocktail of medication similar to what his father consumes. 

“He also suffers severe insomnia that keeps him sleepless for 4-5 days on end after which, helped by a heavy dose of drugs, he sleeps for 48 hours non-stop.  When he wakes up he takes drugs that help him concentrate.  Doctors expect he will soon reach a state where the destruction of his brain by drugs can no longer be concealed”.

This contrasts with information we have received from our sources earlier in MBS’ reign to the effect that he, unlike many Saudi princes of his generation, leads a clean, sober life centred around his family.  He is married to one woman (polygamy is common among Saudi royals) and usually shuns wild nights out and loud parties. 

“Evidence of his sick state of mind can be found in the fact that he ordered the cellars of the palace transformed into cells for VIP prisoners where he can enjoy knowing that they are being tortured under his feet.  All senior princes and former minsters in detention are kept there, and Saud al-Qahtani is in charge of them”.

 It seems unlikely, not least from the logistical point of view, that any detainees would be held in the royal palace.