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The Saudi Shuffle
Saudi King Announces Big Power Shake-Up

Today sees an unprecedented shake-up of the power structures in Saudi Arabia: the newly appointed King Salman is replacing his designated successor. Until today, Crown Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz, the youngest son of Saudi Arabia’s founder Ibn Saud, was slated to inherit the throne. But now Salman has named Mohammed bin Nayef instead, the first of the next generation of Saudi princes who are set to run the country in the coming century.

He also made his favorite son, the thirty year old Mohammed bin Salman deputy crown prince, making him second in line for succession. Mohammed bin Salman has been instrumental in running the war in Yemen. And these weren’t the only changes, via the Guardian:

Another critical change was the removal of the longtime foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, who was replaced with Adel al-Jubeir, the kingdom’s ambassador to the US. Faisal, 75, who had served as foreign minister for 40 years, spent several months this year receiving medical treatment abroad. The decree cited health conditions as the reason for his retirement.

The king also moved Adel Faqih from the post of labour minister to that of economy minister. Khalid al-Falih was put in charge of the health ministry.

The most senior woman in government, Nora al-Fayez, was sacked as deputy education minister for girls. Shunned by ultra-conservatives, she was strongly pushing to get physical education on the curriculum for girls in Saudi public schools.

King Salman is the most activist Saudi king in years—from bombing Yemen to reshuffling the royal succession and introducing dramatic cabinet changes, the new king is moving at a pace rarely seen in the Kingdom. One clear aim of the changes is the stabilizing and strengthening of the organizational foundations of the Saudi state. While Westerners may be looking for policy reforms that would ‘liberalize’ the kingdom, the Saudi focus seems to be on reform in the service of protecting the existing power structure.

And the need for stability could not be more apparent, as the Kingdom faces challenges on its periphery from both Iran and various insurgencies, from a depressed oil market, and even from its own restive population.

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  • Kevin


    How much of this is factional politics (and what are the relevent cleavages?) vs. new people to implement new policies vs. clearing out deadwood from the old generation and bringing in new blood? Has this sort of thing happened when previous monarchs ascended the throne? Does it represent consolidation of power into the new king’s hands and a move away from consensual politics among the senior members of the ruling family? The Guardian article really doesn’t provide much in the way of details and is more a laundry list than an attempt to wrap it up in a coherent framework and provide an interpretation of what it means for the future – hopefully more to come as they dig into it.

    • Ellen

      “Clearing out the dead wood” is a nice phrase to describe the change in the ruling elite of a country. Saudi Arabia in recent decades has specialized in keeping its dead wood in place as they progressively get deader and deader with each passing year. King Abdullah was considered a great reformer by many including Tony Blair, but his “reforms” proceeded at a glacial pace. And women never did quite get the right to drive by the end of his 20 year reign. One wonders how long it will take for that.

      As for clearing out the dead wood, I’d love to see some of that happening in the USA with the 2016 election. No more Obama, no more Clintons and no more Democratic Party. Who will be the new princes to replace our putrified, calcified, and rotting wood in Washington?

      • fastrackn1

        If we cleaned out all the “dead wood”, there wouldn’t be anybody left…………now that’s a pleasant thought….

      • FriendlyGoat

        We can be sure that Republicans will behave as if they imagine themselves princes. That’s been going on a long time. They basically beg a few billions for political work and then arrange for those donors to receive 100-fold return from the public treasury.

        • Dale Fayda

          That’s why we have the Tea Party, FG. They are by far the least ossified segment of the political class.

          • FriendlyGoat

            I wish I understood how the Tea Party does anything whatsoever except aid the election of more establishment Republicans. I have heard that they view themselves somewhat differently, but if they are for high-end tax cuts and supposedly-“small” government they are being used, no?

          • Dale Fayda

            No. The Tea Party movement is the revolt of the middle class against the ruling class, both Democrat and Republican. It’s not easy fighting both of them at once, but someone has to do it. You may be OK with being a helpless supplicant of the failing welfare state, but I “ain’t with that”.

            You really should get over your obsession with “high-end tax cuts”. People’s money are just as much their private property as anything else they own. It belongs to them, not to the government. On the practical side, if you feel that the Federal Government isn’t taking a large enough chunk of someone’s money, you can always write a check to make up at least some of the difference. Wii you do that for us, FG? Will you, ha?

          • FriendlyGoat

            I would not be against Tea Party people if I was not convinced that most of them literally have NO IDEA what they are supporting and how their support completely enables what they claim to be against. If you think the economic problems of the lower middle class are being caused by the government and the welfare recipients, you have been sold a bill of goods and are being cynically played for your vote by jackals.

            YOUR comment would lead one to believe that the Tea Party folks “might” be smart enough to share the concerns of the former “Occupy” movement or even those of Pope Francis, but nah, not really. At least, not that I have ever heard of.
            As best I can tell, you are a bunch of “little guys” hell bent on making life worse for all “little guys” because no one tells you that tax cuts DO NOT “create jobs”.

            On taxes, please consider Dan Price, the CEO of Gravity Payments who recently made news by announcing that he will raise all of his 120 employees to $70,000 over three years. This can be estimated to cost about $2,500,000 per year and the money was to come from reduction of Price’s $1,000,000 salary and from reduction of company earnings.

            If Price and company have been taxed at roughly 40%, the first thing that is going to happen is that by raising deductible wages, he is going to pay about $1,000,000 less in income taxes and will only be foregoing $1.500.000 of after-tax income he might have otherwise kept in order to pay people $2,500,000 more

            If his income taxes were raised to 60%, his latest decision would save $1,500,000 on taxes and require him foregoing $1,000,000 of after-tax earnings he might have otherwise kept.

            If his income taxes are cut to 20%, he would only save $500,000 on taxes and would have to willingly forego $2,000,000 of after-tax income he might have otherwise kept.

            Getting companies to—–per this example—“give away” $2,000,000 is harder than getting them to “give away”
            $1,000,000. Using the threat of high taxes to get companies to pay workers more is THE POINT OF high taxes. Meanwhile, the goofy Tea Partiers think that if government will just leave more with the employers, then OF COURSE the employers will use it to hire and pay. Have ANY of you noticed it ain’t workin’ like you say?

          • Dale Fayda

            I’ve been following your comments in this site for over a year and it’s the same crapola every time. You consistently miss the forest for the trees.

            By the way, you didn’t answer my question – will you cut a check for extra money to the Federal Government every year until the high-end tax rates reach the level of which you approve? Yes or no? If every self-identified liberal such as yourself did just that, it would make quite a dent in the deficit, no? Plus, it should also give you great pleasure to know that you’re not only talking the talk, but also walking the walk, right?

            It’s NOT the government’s money – it belongs to the people who earn it. It’s OUR damn money – not yours and not Obama’s!

            It’s not the government’s job to socially engineer society to the tastes of the self-annoited “enlightened ones'” (and I include you in that number) by confiscating more and more of other people’s property. It’s immoral and oppressive.

            I’ve seen scores of people on this site reply to your fixation on “high-end tax cuts” with a variety of perfectly cogent arguments and I won’t re-hash them tonight. Suffice it to say that I plan to fight the government’s attempt to pilfer and to squander my money with every means at my disposal, fair and unfair, until I take my dying breath.

          • FriendlyGoat

            You’re indoctinated, Dale. I just explained to you in actual logic why I am on the same side as people frustrated with the reality of working-class economics and who have turned to the Tea Party for help. But your political efforts are not going to get you the help you and your Patriots hope for. It is getting you more and more billionaires who really don’t give a damn whether anyone can make a family function on $8.00 or $10,00 or $12.00 or $14,00 an hour. The evidence is abundant in almost every state in the country.

          • Dale Fayda

            No need to patronize me, FG. Leave it to me to figure out who’s looking out for the interests of people like me and who isn’t. My family ran AWAY from socialism and we know where this train stops.

            And you STILL didn’t answer my question – if you’re convinced that much higher tax rates on the top earners are more productive than lower ones, are you willing to cut a extra check to the Federal Government until those rates reach the level of which you approve? Simple question – yes or no?

            You’ve mentioned several times on this site how successful you were in business, so I assume you’ve got plenty socked away, which makes you part of the 1%, which means you must be made to pay your “fair share”, yes? If, in your vehement opinion, the current tax rates on high-income earners are too low and therefore counter-productive, then you should pay more than you’re currently paying, yes? Which means that you’ll be cutting a check to the IRS tomorrow morning, yes? If yes, then please post the scanned copy of this CASHED check on this site in a few days/weeks – you can black out all the sensitive information.

            And if not… We’ll all know what you’re full of.

          • FriendlyGoat

            You think you can intimidate an old retiree with bluster? OF COURSE I cannot fix the federal deficit nor can my modest means influence Congress to change tax policy. So take your threatening tone and shove it.

            I am not in the 1%. But I have seen the operation of taxes on the inside of companies in ways that most people have not.

            As for patronizing you, it’s impossible. Nor do I really give a hoot about either your recalcitrance or your arrogance. You will make your arguments and I will make mine.

            Dan Price has provided an example for what should be going on in this country. The Tea Party is just tri-cornered hats sitting on mad heads of people in a stew of confusion.

          • Dale Fayda

            Threatening tone? You misread me entirely, FG. I just followed your line of reasoning to its logical conclusion. as I said, I’ve been following TAI for a while and you’re its resident one-trick pony.

            Your indignant response was completely predictable. A liberal won’t leave a scrap of meat on your bones if you even glance at his stash – it’s only the others’ money that belongs to the gub’ment. Until you put YOUR money where your mouth is…

          • FriendlyGoat

            You think I haven’t paid taxes all my life like everyone else? Do you really think I have a mega-stash? Do you really think I can write checks until a Republican Congress (or any Congress) raises high-end rates to a level I approve? That is what you demanded, remember?

            I’m going to bed, Dale. No sense losing sleep over your personal-level nonsense.

          • Dale Fayda

            Thought so. The world doesn’t run on learned discourse or on half-witted progressive ideas. It runs on cold, hard cash. Obviously, your cash is more dear to you than your principals. I understand.

            Good night.

  • Dan Greene

    These moves by Salman have nothing to do with “cleaning out dead wood.” It’s all about factional politics and competing ideological visions for how Saudi Arabia should move forward into the future.

    King Salman is the last man standing of the “Sudairi Seven,” the group of Ibn Saud’s sons by one of his many wives, Hassa bint Ahmed al Sudairi. His predecessor, King Abdullah, was the head of an opposing faction. And since his ascent to the throne, Salman has been eliminating all those of Abdullah’s faction, especially his sons, who might impede the ascendency of the sons of Salman and his fellow Sudairi brother, the late Prince Nayef.

    The Sudairis are extremely conservative, anti-Iran, anti-Shia, and anti-reform. They view themselves as the most authentic Saudis and everyone else as “liberals” and betrayers of true “Saudiness.” Abdullah made a few tentative attempts at reform, which Salman is rolling back. The firing of the female Deputy Education Minister typifies that trend. But the main goal has been to strip out all those who were close to Abdullah.

    Former Crown Prince Muqrin was an ally of King Abdullah. Salman replace him with Prince Nayef’s son Mohammed bin Nayef (MbN) and made his own son Muhammed bin Salman (MbS) the Deputy Crown Prince. These two already hold the Interior and Defense Ministries respectively. Basically Prince Nayef with assistance from then Prince Salman hoodwinked King Abdullah and let him think they had made a deal which would allow Abdullah’s son Miteb to ascend to the throne one day. In reality, they ensured that first Nayef and then Salman, when Nayed died, would become Crown Prince and thus have the power to overturn the agreement Abdullah thought he had concluded once he was dead. As it turns out, the real agreement was between between Nayef and Salman to ensure that their sons would be the prime players in the future.

    Since he became King in January, Salman sacked two of Abdullah’s sons from key provincial governor positions in Mecca and Riyadh. And he has now, per the story above, promoted the ambassador to the US, Adel al-Jubeir, a non-royal, over the head of another son of Abdullah who is the Deputy Foreign Minister into the Foreign Minister portfolio. Talk about a slap in the face!

    Only Abdullah’s most capable son, Miteb, is still in his job running the powerful National Guard (SANG). Miteb will be much harder to eliminate, because the SANG is a network of tribal militias that gives him quite a bit of power. But the message that Salman has sent is that Miteb is now isolated. The SANG is too important for Salman to allow it to remain in Miteb’s hands in the long term. More maneuvering to come!

    The obsessively anti-Shia temper of Salman and his son are on display in the Yemen invasion. This mindless obsessiveness may well be the downfall of this new ascendency, which poses a threat to the institution of the monarchy itself. Our relations with Saudi Arabia under Salman, MbN, and MbS will be even more difficult.

    I can’t help observing that if a new Iranian president had fired a female minister, TAI would have been shrieking that it was a huge step backward for women in Iran, etc, etc. When repressive Saudi Arabia becomes even more repressive, TAI falls all over itself to rationalize the change. Typical.

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