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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