Appointment of new prince marks start of reforms in Saudi Arabia

The elevation places Mohammed bin Salman as first-in-line to the throne and removed the country's counterterrorism czar and a figure well-known to Washington from the line of succession.

The king appointed his son as his successor and first in line to the throne, stripping Nayef of the title of crown prince and ousting him from his powerful position of interior minister.

There had always been speculations that MbS's rise to power under his father's reign might also accelerate his ascension to the throne.

Meanwhile, the June 21 reshuffle sparked speculation on Twitter about a possible future abdication by the octogenarian King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in favour of his son, whose youth and dynamism have appealed to younger Saudis who make up the majority in society and are often eager for change. This week King Salman made him crown prince, supplanting his vastly more experienced cousin Mohammed bin Nayef.

"I also pay tribute to the work of His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who has played a central role in our counter-terrorism collaboration and been a firm friend of the United Kingdom for many years". He became the special advisor to his father, when the later was still a governor. Some of the reformd that are now being implemented are the upcoming IPO by the country's oil giant Aramco and Vision 2030 plan which have all been driven by Mohammed bin Salman.

The crown prince said last month on Saudi TV that he was not open to trying to improve relations with Tehran, which he accused of trying "to control the Islamic world" to spread its Shi'ite doctrine.

The king called on governors and other princes to pledge allegiance to his new heir and ordered a ceremony after night prayers on Wednesday at a royal palace in Makkah.

This AFP file photo taken on December 9, 2015 shows Mohamed bin Salman (L) talking with Mohammed bin Nayef during the 136th (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council summit in Riyadh. He worked closely with Washington after the September 11 attacks, helping to share intelligence to thwart more attacks. The decision came after Muhammad Bin Nayef opposed the Kingdom's decision of cutting ties with Qatar. But for that to happen, Saudi Arabia needs the rest of the world.

The warm ties forged between Riyadh and Washington under the Trump administration may have helped accelerate Mohammed bin Salman's ascension as crown prince.

While working as defense minister, he oversaw the Saudi-led military coalition against the Houthi rebels from Yemen. Mohammed bin Salman must also have "full support" from Saudi royals as pressure mounts from a series of challenges, he said.

  • Leroy Wright