Breaking News
Investing Pro 0
Free Webinar - What Is a Gold IRA? Fees, Advantages, and Risks - December 7, 2022 | 01:00PM EST Enroll Now

Saudi king empowers young reformer son in succession shake-up

World Jun 21, 2017 08:27AM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This article has already been saved in your Saved Items
 
© Reuters. Newly appointed Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman kisses the hand of Prince Mohammed bin Nayef in Mecca

By Stephen Kalin and William Maclean

DUBAI (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia's King Salman made his son next in line to the throne on Wednesday, handing the 31-year-old sweeping powers as the kingdom seeks radical overhaul of its oil-dependent economy and faces mounting tensions with regional rival Iran.

Although Mohammed bin Salman's promotion to crown prince was expected among those who follow the royal family closely, the timing was a surprise, putting the kingdom's future in relatively untested hands.

He replaces his cousin, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, a veteran security chief who led the Saudi campaign against Islamic State and al Qaeda at a time when Riyadh faces heightened tensions with Qatar and Iran and is locked into a war in Yemen.

Mohammed bin Salman's appointment may make Saudi policy more hawkish against long-time enemy Iran and other Gulf rivals such as Qatar, increasing volatility in an already unstable region, analysts say.

"The elevation of Mohammad Bin Salman to the Crown Prince will likely mean minimal change to oil production policy but could bring more aggressive foreign policy moves that bring back the political risk premium," said a research note by RBC Capital Markets, LLC.

The young prince is often charming in person, but analysts say his rapid rise has also created friction within the ruling family and made Saudi policy less predictable than in recent decades.

FAVORITE SON

A favorite son of his elderly father, his youth and dynamism have also appealed to many younger Saudis, who constitute the biggest proportion of society and are often eager for change.

After decades in which the same small group of princes handled Saudi affairs on the world stage, Prince Mohammed has led diplomacy with global powers, reportedly charming both U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Mohammed bin Salman was appointed crown prince and deputy prime minister by royal decree. He retains the defense, oil and economy portfolios.

The previous crown prince, Mohammed bin Nayef, the king's nephew and a counter-terrorism chief admired in Washington for putting down an al Qaeda campaign of bombings in 2003-06, was relieved of all his posts, according to the decree.

The royal decree said 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.

Intent on dispelling speculation of internal divisions in the ruling dynasty, Saudi television was quick to show that the change in succession was amicable and supported by the family.

Throughout the early morning it aired footage of Mohammed bin Nayef pledging allegiance to the younger Mohammed bin Salman, who knelt and kissed his cousin's hand.

"I am content," Prince Mohammed bin Nayef said. Prince Mohammed bin Salman replied: "We will not give up taking your guidance and advice."

ESCALATING REGIONAL TENSIONS

Analysts said the change ends uncertainty over succession and empowers Prince Mohammed bin Salman to move faster with his plan to reduce the kingdom's dependence on oil, which includes the partial privatization of state oil company Aramco.

"The change is a huge boost to the economic reform program... Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) is its architect," said John Sfakianakis, director of the Gulf Research Center.

Bernard Haykel, professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton, said the king's decision was aimed at avoiding a power struggle between his son and Mohammed bin Nayef by setting the line of succession out clearly.

"It's clearly a transition that has happened smoothly and bloodlessly. Now it's clear, it's straightforward. That kind of clarity lowers the risk. There's no question as to who's going to be in charge."

    After Prince Mohammed's elevation was announced, Saudi Arabia's stock market surged more than 3 percent in early trade.

"Some people were predicting that this would lead to a division in the family and strife and some kind of revolt. I don't see that happening," Haykel said.

Iran, Saudi Arabia's main rival for regional influence, called Prince Mohammed's appointment a "soft coup".

Iran's leadership was critical of comments by Prince Mohammed last month that the "battle" should be taken into Iran, with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei labeling the Saudi leadership then as "idiots".

Arab leaders, including Oman’s Sultan Qaboos, Jordan’s King Abdullah, Egypt's Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi congratulated Prince Mohammed bin Salman on his appointment, according to state media.

  The royal decree did not nominate a new deputy crown prince. The position is relatively new in Saudi Arabia, where kings have traditionally chosen their own successors.

In an apparent attempt to appease the family, the decree had a clause that made clear that Mohammed bin Salman won’t be allowed to appoint one of his own sons as his successor.

It also appointed young princes from other branches of the family to government roles, seemingly to reassure them that they will remain part of the ruling structure.

As deputy crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman 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.

    

POWER BEHIND THE THRONE

Until his father Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud became Saudi Arabia's seventh king in January 2015, few people outside the kingdom had ever heard of Prince Mohammed.

    He is currently defense minister, giving him command of one of the world's biggest arms budgets and making him ultimately responsible for Saudi Arabia's military adventure in Yemen.

    Prince Mohammed chairs the supreme board of Aramco, making him the first member of the ruling family to directly oversee the state oil company, long regarded as the preserve of commoner technocrats.

    But perhaps most importantly, he is the gatekeeper to his father, King Salman, who in Saudi Arabia's absolute monarchy retains the final say in any major decision of state.

    Outside Saudi Arabia, that rapid advance and the sudden changes to longstanding policies on regional affairs, energy and its economy have prompted unease, adding an unpredictable edge to a kingdom that allies long regarded as a known quantity.

    Inside, they have prompted admiration among many younger Saudis who regard his ascent as evidence that their generation is taking a central place in running a country whose patriarchal traditions have for decades made power the province of the old.

Saudi king empowers young reformer son in succession shake-up
 

Related Articles

Add a Comment

Comment Guidelines

We encourage you to use comments to engage with other users, share your perspective and ask questions of authors and each other. However, in order to maintain the high level of discourse we’ve all come to value and expect, please keep the following criteria in mind:  

  •            Enrich the conversation, don’t trash it.

  •           Stay focused and on track. Only post material that’s relevant to the topic being discussed. 

  •           Be respectful. Even negative opinions can be framed positively and diplomatically. Avoid profanity, slander or personal attacks directed at an author or another user. Racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination will not be tolerated.

  • Use standard writing style. Include punctuation and upper and lower cases. Comments that are written in all caps and contain excessive use of symbols will be removed.
  • NOTE: Spam and/or promotional messages and comments containing links will be removed. Phone numbers, email addresses, links to personal or business websites, Skype/Telegram/WhatsApp etc. addresses (including links to groups) will also be removed; self-promotional material or business-related solicitations or PR (ie, contact me for signals/advice etc.), and/or any other comment that contains personal contact specifcs or advertising will be removed as well. In addition, any of the above-mentioned violations may result in suspension of your account.
  • Doxxing. We do not allow any sharing of private or personal contact or other information about any individual or organization. This will result in immediate suspension of the commentor and his or her account.
  • Don’t monopolize the conversation. We appreciate passion and conviction, but we also strongly believe in giving everyone a chance to air their point of view. Therefore, in addition to civil interaction, we expect commenters to offer their opinions succinctly and thoughtfully, but not so repeatedly that others are annoyed or offended. If we receive complaints about individuals who take over a thread or forum, we reserve the right to ban them from the site, without recourse.
  • Only English comments will be allowed.

Perpetrators of spam or abuse will be deleted from the site and prohibited from future registration at Investing.com’s discretion.

Write your thoughts here
 
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
 
Post
Post also to:
 
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
1000
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Thanks for your comment. Please note that all comments are pending until approved by our moderators. It may therefore take some time before it appears on our website.
 
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
 
Post
 
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
1000
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Add Chart to Comment
Confirm Block

Are you sure you want to block %USER_NAME%?

By doing so, you and %USER_NAME% will not be able to see any of each other's Investing.com's posts.

%USER_NAME% was successfully added to your Block List

Since you’ve just unblocked this person, you must wait 48 hours before renewing the block.

Report this comment

I feel that this comment is:

Comment flagged

Thank You!

Your report has been sent to our moderators for review
Continue with Google
or
Sign up with Email