Photo Credit: Пресс-служба Президента России via Wikimedia
Mohammed bin Salman (L) with a friend

King Salman of Saudi Arabia has replaced Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef (58) with his favorite son (he has 13 children from three wives)) Mohammed bin Salman (31), disregarding protocol in order to guarantee the beloved Prince Mohammed’s overturning path to the throne.

The other Prince Mohammed, no longer Crown Prince, also lost his job as Interior Minister, which is a significant change, seeing as Domestic Security and Counter-Terrorism are both run by the Saudi Interior Ministry.

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The decree, issued on Wednesday morning, is the King’s vote of confidence in Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is now free to implement his ambitious reforms in both economic and foreign policy.

Both Prince Nayef and Prince Mohammed are the King’s children from his third marriage with Fahda bint Falah bin Sultan Al Hithalayn. Crowned the new King of Saudi Arabia in 2015, following the death of his half-brother, King Abdullah, Salman is not well liked within the Royal family. He only became Crown Prince himself in 2012, after the death of his brother Nayef bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.

According to the Independent, citing a “dissident prince,” eight of the 12 surviving sons of King Saud of Saudi Arabia (he had 115 children) have been plotting to oust King Salman. The King, 82, underwent spinal surgery in the US in 2010, and has suffered a stroke – he can barely move his left arm. He also Salman suffers from dementia and Alzheimer’s.

So far, Prince Mohammad bin Salman, as head of Aramco and with the Kingdom being the dominant member of OPEC, was behind the failed Saudi plan to bankrupt the competition by keeping oil prices low over a long period of time. It didn’t work, because American Frackers slowed down temporarily and waited for oil prices to go up again – while the Saudis had to subsidize their own expenses out of their savings account to the tune of at least $100 billion a year. This and the $32 billion King Salman burned on gifts for his 2015 coronation means, according to several reports, that the Kingdom will run out of cash in five years.

Add to that the conflicts in which Saudi Arabia is engaged with Yemen in the South and Iran across the Gulf, and you’ll get some measure of the challenges the new heir apparent is facing.

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