Major Political Shake-Up in Saudi Leadership

Major Political Shake-Up in Saudi LeadershipMajor Political Shake-Up in Saudi Leadership

Saudi Arabia's King Salman on Wednesday appointed Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz, the US favorite and veteran security chief as crown prince, making him next-in-line to rule the world’s top oil exporter in a sudden reshuffle of top posts in the Al Saud dynasty. A separate decree said King Salman's son, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is in his early 30s, will be deputy crown prince.

In another major change, Saudi Arabia's envoy to the US, Adel al-Jubeir, was appointed foreign minister. He replaces Prince Saud al-Faisal who "asked to be relieved from his duties due to his health condition," said the decree carried by the SPA.

Prince Saud had held the post since 1975, making him the world's longest-serving foreign minister. His appointment is a rarity as the position of foreign minister is usually held by a member of the ruling family.

King Salman also appointed Saudi Aramco's chief executive, Khalid al-Falih, as chairman of the state oil firm and health minister on Wednesday, in a reshuffle that is unlikely to change oil policy in the world's top crude exporter.

A royal decree removed Crown Prince Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz bin Saud as next in line to the throne and replaced him with Nayef, who now serves as the country's interior minister.

Mohammed will remain in his position as interior minister, Wednesday’s decree said. The 55-year-old is now firmly established as the most powerful member of his generation in the ruling al-Saud family, and even before he becomes king will be one of the most important figures in Saudi Arabia, France24 reported.

He is the first grandson of Saudi Arabia’s founding monarch, King Abdulaziz, or Ibn Saud, to join the line of succession. Abdulaziz established the kingdom in 1932 and ruled until his death in 1953.

Prince Mohammed is now the youngest member of the select group of princes at the top of government who control the most important portfolios such as foreign affairs, intelligence and defense.

Despite Mohammed's constant contacts with western - particularly American - officials and a prominent media presence through his security role, diplomats and Saudi analysts are uncertain what positions he holds on the big long-term issue facing the kingdom: reconciling social change and a young population with conservative traditions and an oil-dependent economy.