Saudi king upends royal succession, names son as 1st heir

by Jared Lewis June 22, 2017, 1:48

Mohammed bin Salman thanked Sisi, while underlining the depth of the Saudi-Egyptian ties. Saudi Arabia's net foreign exchange reserves peaked at almost $750 billion in 2014 before oil prices crashed.

Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia leads a coalition which has fought alongside the Yemeni government against Shiite rebels who control the capital Sanaa.

The position is relatively new in Saudi Arabia, where Kings have traditionally chosen their own successors.

Prince Mohammed bin Naif, 57, had served as crown prince since 2015, taking the post shortly after King Salman, his uncle, was crowned. "If you look at it positively, it is basically setting Saudi Arabia's course into the 21st century". Today he is a heartbeat away from ruling the most powerful country in the Arab world.

The UAE, a federation of seven sheikhdoms bordering Saudi Arabia, has been a major point of Saudi investment, especially in Dubai. He also had been Saudi Arabia's interior minister - another job that will now be filled by Mohammed bin Salman.

He was propelled into the domestic and global limelight when his father Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud became Saudi Arabia's seventh king in 2015 and he was named deputy crown prince - behind his cousin whom he has now replaced - and defence minister. They back opposite sides in the wars in Syria and Yemen and they support political rivals in Lebanon, Bahrain and Iraq. The young royal has courted foreign leaders, including USA president Donald Trump, and the world's top executives as he has sought to strengthen ties with allies and lure investment to back his reform plans.

Iran and Saudi Arabia's rivalry has played out in proxy wars across the region.

Gulf allies have accused Qatar of allegedly supporting terrorist groups but many observers have been surprised by the severity of their response.

The two countries are bitter regional rivals, and severed diplomatic ties previous year.

He has promoted a gradualist approach to social change, curbing the powers of the feared religious police who enforce strict segregation and public religiosity in the conservative country. The majority of the Allegiance Council members had approved the appointment.

Salman was Abdullah's crown prince and had taken on some of the ailing king's responsibilities before his death.

Mohammed bin Salman has also been named deputy Prime Minister but still conserves his role as defense minister. At just 31-years-old himself it puts him in-line to rule the kingdom for many decades.

The Saudi Tadawul index, the largest in the Middle East, also was boosted by news that some benefits for civil servants were being restored.

Mohammed bin Salman and Trump have already established a working rapport, the two men meeting in Washington earlier this year, and then again during Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia last month.

That's according to a statement carried by Kuwait's state-run KUNA news agency.

Over the weekend, the king had issued a decree restructuring Saudi Arabia's system for prosecutions that removed Mohammed bin Nayef's oversight of criminal investigations, and instead ordered that a newly-named Office of Public Prosecution report directly to the monarch.

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

That move has now been overturned, with Mohammed bin Nayef also stripped of his title and his roles as deputy prime minister and interior minister.

His youth is a novelty for a country that is used to ageing leaders - Mohammed's father is 81. They vote to choose the king and the crown prince among themselves.

King Salman called for royals to pledge allegiance to his son at the Safa Palace in Mecca after the Ramadan Taraweeh prayers.

The royal decree did not nominate a new deputy crown prince.

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