Saudi King Salman ousts nephew as Crown Prince, installs son

Saudi Arabia's king has appointed his son Mohammed bin Salman as crown prince - replacing his nephew, Mohammed bin Nayef, as first in line to the throne.

Faisal J. Abbas, the editor of Arab News, wrote in March, "The new Saudi spirit, embodied in the deputy crown prince, is one that means business, and has made reform and progression its main mandate (compared to Tehran, which has only used the money from the nuclear deal to further spread chaos and terror in the region)". A total of 31 out of 34 members of a council of senior princes approved the new appointment.

He also spearheaded the development of a wide-ranging plan for the country's future, called Saudi Vision 2030, which seeks to decrease Saudi Arabia's dependence on oil, diversify its economy and loosen some social restrictions inside the kingdom.

The shuffle stripped Mohammed bin Nayef of his title as crown prince and interior minister, overseeing security. "He is new at all of this, and I think he was probably trying to signal a warm welcome, but it was unusual and it could definitely signal to people back in Saudi Arabia that there is an effort being made there".

Saudi King replaces Mohammed bin Nayef with Mohammed bin Salman as crown prince on Wednesday.

Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah sent a cable of congratulations Wednesday to King Salman over his elevation of his son, 31-year-old Mohammed bin Salman. The Council is comprised of senior princes who gather in secret and vote to pick the king and crown prince from among themselves.

A public pledge of allegiance to the new crown prince is scheduled for Wednesday evening; in a video that was posted shortly after the change was announced, the two princes are seen greeting each other and exchanging pleasantries.

The kingdom was the first stop on Trump's maiden overseas trip as president, making him the first USA president to make a Muslim country the destination of his first official trip. The visit also helped lay the foundation for Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia in May, which marked the president's first overseas visit.

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.

Despite his ambitions, the prince has faced criticism for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, which has failed to dislodge Iranian-allied rebels known as Houthis from the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, and has had devastating effects on the impoverished country.

The new crown prince has also expressed support for improving human rights and freedom of expression in a country that is widely criticized for its oppressive laws. Saudi Arabia promoted the visit as proof of its weight in the region and wider Muslim world. The conflicts have deepened Sunni-Shiite enmity between hard-liners on both sides.

  • Zachary Reyes