Saudi Arabia Shakes Up Its Line of Succession

The struggle for the throne between princes of Saudi Arabia was expected to end sooner or later.

Prince bin Salman, 31, is now deputy crown prince.

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

Iran's state TV described the appointment of MBS as a "soft coup in Saudi Arabia". The prince, who is relatively unknown to most outside Saudi Arabia, is also in his thirties.

Meanwhile, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, tweeted: "I congratulate Prince Mohammed bin Salman on winning the confidence of King Salman for the post of crown prince, wishing him all success".

Analysts said the change empowers Prince Mohammed bin Salman to move faster with his plan to reduce the kingdom's reliance on oil, which includes the partial privatization of state oil company Aramco. For decades, the throne has passed from elderly brother to elderly brother - all sons of the late founder.

As defence minister he has attracted worldwide criticism for his role in Saudi Arabia's bloody intervention in the Yemeni civil war, but to younger generations, used to elderly kings and princes, Prince bin Salman's rise is a sign that things in the conservative kingdom are changing. It shifts the centre of gravity for power in the kingdom from the old to the young. Another key appointment announced on Wednesday was that of of Abdel Aziz bin Saud bin Nayef (34), who was chosen to succeed his uncle as interior minister.

The Saudi Tadawul index, the largest in the Middle East, also was boosted by news that some benefits for civil servants were being restored. He previously served as an adviser to the interior and defence ministries. All hail from the powerful Sudairi branch of the royal family.

A senior Saudi official said the decision was taken due to what he called special circumstances presented to the members of the Allegiance Council.

The council is the highest religious body in the ultraconservative Sunni kingdom.

MBS has been promoted now, Hammond told MEE, due to "the importance of offering guarantees to Western and regional governments, investors and lenders over the continuity of foreign and economic policies, all of which are tied to Mohammed bin Salman". MBS is shown kissing his older cousin's hand and kneeling before him; the outgoing crown prince is heard telling him: "I will rest now, and God help you".

The prince had appeared to be slipping from public eye as his nephew, Mohammed bin Salman, embarked on major overseas visits, including a trip to the White House to meet President Donald Trump in March.

The Saudi king also issued a decree amending Saudi Arabia's rule system.

Outside Saudi Arabia, that rapid advance and the sudden changes to long-standing 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.

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 crown prince promised to change Saudi regressive social policies, particularly those impacting on women, but nothing has changed so far due to opposition from the ultra-conservative clerics.

  • Zachary Reyes