King of Saudi Arabia names son as new Crown Prince

Pablo Tucker
June 21, 2017

The announcement was made in a surprise royal decree that provided no justification for the change or for the sudden demotion of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef who was also relieved of all of his responsibilities.

Prince Mohammed bin Nayef was the kingdom's security chief for many years and was known for his strong stance against jihadist militants.

King Salman's decree also means Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 31, will become deputy prime minister while continuing as defence minister.

The official reason for this change in succession line was given via the royal decree, which stated that "a majority" of senior royal members from the so-called Allegiance Council supported the recasting of the line of succession.

The tiny island off the coast of Saudi Arabia sent several messages on Wednesday welcoming the ascension of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the son of King Salman.

Bernard Haykel, professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton, said the king's decision was aimed at setting the line of succession clearly to avoid a power struggle between his son and Mohammed bin Nayef. At 31, Saudi Arabia's new successor to the throne is 50 years younger than the current monarch.

Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, who, according to the Arab media outlets, considers himself as Alexander the Great, is an ardent opponent of Iran.

Of the new crown prince's personal life, Gulf News reports: "A law graduate from Riyadh's King Saud University, the dark-bearded prince with a receding hairline is the father of two boys and two girls and has married only once".

Prince Mohammed was relatively unknown until 2015 when his father, Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, now 81, reached the throne. A reshuffle has been also announced in the royal court. The vision aims to diversify the Saudi economy and reduce its dependence on oil among other social and economic objectives. But the move to replace him risks triggering divisions within the ranks of the ruling Al Saud family, given the private concerns among some family members about the rise of the inexperienced Prince Mohammed.

But it was Bin Salman who led Saudi Arabia's recent diplomatic offensive against Qatar, cutting diplomatic ties, closing the border and halting air and sea traffic with Qatar, and urging "all brotherly countries and companies to do the same" in order to protect themselves from "terrorism and extremism". Mohammed bin Nayef is heard telling him: "I will rest now, and God help you". He also claimed that Iran was planning to take over the Islamic world, adding that Saudi Arabia would not wait for Iran to turn it into a war zone, but would rather take the war to Iran. Iran's intelligence has accused both the United States and Saudi Arabia of "involvement".

How does Saudi Arabia's royal succession work?

"But as experience shows, bin Salman would suffer the same fate in future", he noted. Colin Foreman wrote for Middle East Business Intelligence that the events in Saudi Arabia in the last two years confirmed his view. The conflicts have deepened Sunni-Shiite enmity between hard-liners on both sides.

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