Salman Deposes Crown Prince, Names Own Son as New Heir

A royal decree said Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef is relieved of all positions and replaced by Mohammed bin Salman who becomes deputy prime minister and retains defense, oil and other portfolios
Mohammed bin Salman (L) replaces Prince Mohammed bin Nayef as crown prince.Mohammed bin Salman (L) replaces Prince Mohammed bin Nayef as crown prince.

Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was elevated to crown prince on Wednesday, replacing his cousin in a sudden announcement that confirms King Salman’s 31-year-old son as next ruler of the world’s leading oil exporter.

A royal decree said Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, a counter-terrorism chief admired in Washington for putting down an Al-Qaeda campaign of bombings in 2003-06, was relieved of all positions and replaced by Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) who becomes deputy prime minister and retains defense, oil and other portfolios, Reuters reported.

The decision by King Salman to promote his son and consolidate his power was endorsed by 31 out of 34 members of the Allegiance Council, made up of senior members of the ruling Al Saud family, the royal decree said.

 Power struggle in House of Saud

There had long been speculations that MbS’s rise to power under his father’s reign might also accelerate his ascension to the throne.

On Wednesday, a well-known Saudi online activist, known on Twitter as @mujtahidd, predicted that King Salman would abdicate in favor of his son.

The whistleblower has already leaked documents indicating high-level corruption inside the Saudi royal family.

The power struggle inside the House of Saud came to light earlier this year when the Saudi king began to overhaul the government and offered positions of influence to a number of family members.

In two royal decrees in April, the Saudi king named two of his other sons, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman and Prince Khaled bin Salman, as state minister for energy affairs and ambassador to the United States, respectively, Press TV reported.

 Escalating Regional Tensions

A senior Saudi official said the decision was taken due to what he called special circumstances presented to the members of the Allegiance Council. He added that Mohammed bin Nayef supported the decision in a letter sent to the king.

Although the promotion of MbS was expected among close circles, it came as a surprise at a time the kingdom is facing escalating tensions with Qatar and is locked in a war of attrition with Yemen.

However, despite spending billions of petrodollars, the Saudi regime has achieved none of its goals during its brutal campaign that has killed over 12,000 civilians, left much of Yemen in ruins and empowered the Takfiri terror groups operating there.

King Salman’s decree said Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, long a favorite of Washington’s for his tough stance against militancy, is relieved of all positions.

Even as deputy crown prince, MbS has been responsible for running Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, dictating an energy policy with global implications and spearheading plans for the kingdom to build an economic future after oil.

That the royal succession in the world’s top oil exporter is closely scrutinized only makes the rapidity of MbS’s rise to power, and the speed with which his better known cousins were brushed aside, more astonishing.

The announcement follows 2-1/2 years of major changes in Saudi Arabia, which stunned allies in 2015 by launching an air war in Yemen, cutting back on lavish subsidies and proposing in 2016 the partial privatization of state oil company Aramco.

Financial analysts said the change gave further assurance that key parts of radical reforms to diversify the Saudi economy beyond oil would continue. This is while political analysts question the diplomatic acumen of MbS who has created messy conditions at home by harshly clamping down on the human rights of Saudi minorities in the Eastern Province and along its borders by supporting Yemen’s fugitive president Abd-Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and blockading Qatar, which even the US has begun to question.

“We do not expect to see any major changes to key areas of policy, including economic–Prince Mohammed bin Salman has already been driving the economic agenda and the push to transform and liberalize the economy,” said Monica Malik, chief economist at Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank.


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