Saudi Ara­bian king names son as new crown prince

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD -

SAUDI Ara­bia’s King Sal­man el­e­vated his son yes­ter­day to be­come crown prince, oust­ing his nephew in a seis­mic shift in the royal suc­ces­sion line that could have deep ram­i­fi­ca­tions for the oil-rich monar­chy and the broader Mid­dle East.

In a se­ries of royal de­crees, the monarch stripped Mo­hammed bin Nayef from his po­si­tion. A pow­er­ful fig­ure who as in­te­rior min­is­ter over­saw the king­dom’s se­cu­rity and counter-ter­ror­ism op­er­a­tions, he was in line to in­herit the throne. He was re­lieved of all his po­si­tions, ac­cord­ing to the de­crees.

Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man, 31, the new crown prince, will also be­come the king­dom’s deputy prime min­is­ter while re­tain­ing his con­trol of the de­fence min­istry and other port­fo­lios. The de­cree all but con­firms him as the next ruler of this key Amer­i­can ally and the Arab world’s largest econ­omy.

The sur­prise an­nounce­ment ar­rives at a crit­i­cal time for the Sunni Mus­lim king­dom as it grap­ples with the eco­nomic fall­out from de­clin­ing oil prices and a costly mil­i­tary cam­paign it leads against Shi’ite rebels in Ye­men. The king­dom is also head­ing a bloc of Arab na­tions that has launched a cam­paign to iso­late Qatar, ac­cus­ing it of sup­port­ing and fi­nanc­ing ter­ror­ism.

The as­cen­sion of Mo­hammed bin Sal­man, along with other re­cent ap­point­ments made by his father, is the lat­est sign of a shift to a younger gen­er­a­tion of lead­ers within the rul­ing fam­ily, one that could usher in eco­nomic and so­cial change to a na­tion where it’s still il­le­gal for a woman to drive, where cin­e­mas are banned and cof­fee shops are seg­re­gated. The young prince is al­ready pro­mot­ing a plan to cre­ate jobs for women and mod­ernise a so­ci­ety where nearly two-thirds of the pop­u­la­tion is under 30 and women make up 22% of the work­force.

Kristin Smith Di­wan, a se­nior res­i­dent scholar at the Arab Gulf State In­sti­tute in Wash­ing­ton said the crown prince’s rise al­most cer­tainly means the con­tin­u­a­tion of “a more as­sertive Saudi pol­icy abroad and a strong al­liance with the UAE in pur­su­ing those poli­cies” to­wards their shared goals of rolling back Ira­nian in­flu­ence and stronger ac­tion against in­de­pen­dent po­lit­i­cal Is­lamist move­ments like the Mus­lim Brother­hood.

Even as deputy crown prince, Mo­hammed bin Sal­man has been given im­mense pow­ers by his father. As de­fence min­is­ter, he runs the Saudi cam­paign in Ye­men. As the head of an eco­nomic coun­cil, he has over­seen ef­forts to re­vamp the king­dom’s en­ergy poli­cies and build a di­verse econ­omy that will sus­tain it­self af­ter its oil re­serves are gone.

PIC­TURE: REUTERS

Saudi Ara­bia’s Deputy Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man.

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