Saudi Arabian king names son as new crown prince
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.
Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.