Saudi Arabia’s king Wednesday (June 21) appointed his son Prince Mohammed bin Salman as crown prince, replacing his nephew, Mohammed bin Nayef, as first in line to the throne.
King Salman bin Abdulaziz is 81 and reportedly not in the best of health.
Tellingly, replacing a Crown Prince is not unprecedented with the Arab monarchs.
In January 1999, while on the death bed, King Hussein of Jordan appointed his elder son Prince Abdullah as Crown Prince replacing his brother Crown Prince Hassan who enjoyed that position for about 33 years. King Hussein died on February 7, 1999 only 12 days after replacing the Crown Prince. The New Crown Prince Abdullah was from King Hussein’s second wife, Toni Avril Gardiner, an Englishwoman. Crown Prince Abdullah was a graduate of the British military academy at Sandhurst, England. The background of Prince Abdullah tells everything.
Before his latest promotion, Prince Mohammed bin Salman was reportedly responsible for leading Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, overseeing the kingdom’s energy policy, economic reform and announced plans to sell off part of the vast state-owned oil company, Saudi Aramco.
According to BBC, the new crown prince is close to US President Donald Trump, and could ratchet up pressure against Iran – which would raise tensions in the region.
Al Jazeera pointed out that in March this year Mohammed bin Salman, visited the White House to meet President Donald Trump . That visit to Washington helped lay the foundation for Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia in May.
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, the decree said. The council is made up of senior members of the ruling Al Saud family.
According to the Guardian, the upheaval follows a dizzying series of moves from the usually cautious kingdom, which in recent weeks has seen it recalibrate relations with Washington and open a diplomatic offensive against Qatar, led by Bin Salman’s office, while pressing ahead with a war in Yemen and an ambitious economic and cultural overhaul at home.
Bin Salman has been central to the changes, which have helped his profile and powers grow rapidly under the tutelage of an 81-year-old monarch who has given him an almost free hand across most aspects of society, the Guardian said adding:
“By contrast, Bin Nayef, a former interior minister and intelligence chief, and more traditional US ally, had been increasingly marginalized and the decree removed him from all his positions. He had played little role in the reform program and was given little face time with Donald Trump during the US president’s visit to Riyadh in May, which is widely seen to have precipitated the change in succession.”
The decision to blockade and isolate Qatar, nominally a Saudi ally, was also led by Bin Salman’s office. The move, which continues to reverberate around the regional Gulf Cooperation Council, was sparked by the Trump visit that publicly reprioritized Riyadh as a regional ally and wound back the Obama administration’s warming relations with Iran.
The Guardian reported that Iran’s Fars news agency Wednesday called the appointment “a political earthquake.” A senior Iranian MP, Seyedhossein Naghavi-Hosseini, who is the speaker of the parliamentary committee on national security and foreign policy, urged restraint from the Saudis.
“After the appointment of Bin Salman as the crown prince, we urge Saudi officials to act with prudence and according to international norms and they should know their limits,” Fars news agency quoted him as saying. “The Islamic Republic of Iran does not want war with any country and we believe we can resolve differences with dialogue. There is no need for foreign interference … but Trump visited Saudi Arabia to do warmongering.”
The new crown prince has ruled out any chance of dialogue with Iran. In remarks aired on Saudi TV in May, Mohammed bin Salman framed the tensions with Iran in sectarian terms and said it is Iran’s goal “to control the Islamic world” and to spread its Shia doctrine.
Given who’s calling the shots in Riyadh and Washington, “it is not really a question of if but rather of when a new escalation with Iran starts,” the Bloomberg quoted Olivier Jakob, managing director of consultant Petromatrix GmbH as saying. “Under his watch, Saudi Arabia has developed aggressive foreign policies and he has not been shy about making strong statements against Iran.”
The Bloomberg News
Meanwhile, the Bloomberg News said the abrupt shakeup that made Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman heir to his father’s throne gives the 31-year-old extraordinary powers to push through his vision to wean the economy off oil and exert his influence in regional conflicts.
Even before the promotion, the new crown prince was dictating defense and oil policy, including overseeing plans to privatize state oil giant Aramco, the Bloomberg News said adding:
“The move suggests a harder foreign policy line for the key U.S. ally in a region fraught with instability. Prince Mohammed has led the war effort in Yemen against Iran backed rebels and was a key figure in the decision to isolate Qatar in the weeks after Donald Trump bolstered ties with the kingdom during a May visit.”
The prince is a staunch opponent of dialogue with Iran, a position backed by Trump, who’s been dialing back the Obama administration’s warming relations with the Islamic republic, according to the Bloomberg News.
Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America (www.journalofamerica.net) email: asghazali2011 (@) gmail.com