Amid the festering regional crisis and the onslaught of Houthi rebels on the Saudi borders, Saudi Arabian monarch King Salman bin Abdulaziz has sprung a surprise and appointed his nephew, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, 55, as the crown prince.
Nayef replaces the King’s half-brother Prince Muqrin who, the royal court statement said, was relieved on his request.
In a second significant appointment, King Salman elevated his son to the position of deputy crown prince, marking the most important royal reshuffle since his coronation in January this year. Prince Nayef is most likely to succeed the king. The prince, who is the interior minister controlling the country’s police and border guards, is known internationally as Saudi Arabia’s counter-terrorism tsar.
The new deputy crown prince, who is the defence minister, is overseeing the Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen. His portfolio also includes heading the council overseeing economic and development issues.
Another critical change was the removal of foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, who was replaced with Adel al-Jubeir, the kingdom’s ambassador to the US. The decree said Faisal was unable to carry on due to ill health.
The elevation of the interior and defence ministers to a publicly more symbolic position comes at a time when Saudi Arabia’s borders are being assailed by Shia Houthi rebels in Yemen, supported by regional rival Iran.
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