Yemen war architect set to be next Saudi king in huge Riyadh royal shake-up

Yemen war architect set to be next Saudi king in huge Riyadh royal shake-up
Mohammed bin Salman becomes crown prince after King Salman ousts Mohammed bin Nayef as heir apparent in Saudi royal power struggle.
2 min read
21 June, 2017
Mohammed bin Salman [Getty]

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has appointed his 31-year-old son Mohammed bin Salman as crown prince, removing the country’s counterterrorism czar and a figure well-known to Washington from the royal line of succession.

King Salman of Saudi Arabia has stripped Prince Mohammed bin Nayef of his title as Crown Prince and heir to the throne and replaced him with Salman's 31-year-old son, Mohammed bin Salman, the architect of the disastrous war in Yemen.

Mohammed bin Nayef has also been ousted from his role as Interior Minister, and replaced at the powerful ministry by 34-year-old Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Nayef.

Bin Salman will keep his job as defence minister, while also becoming deputy prime minister, in a move seen as consolidating power in the kingdom following a number of expansions of responsibility including taking charge of Saudi economic reforms.

Bin Salman's eventual rise has been long-predicted, but the timing of the appointment, in the midst of the largest Gulf diplomatic crisis in several years, will be sure to raise eyebrows.

Comment: Salman fishing in the Yemen

The young prince is seen as close to the US administration of Donald Trump and is thought to be behind Riyadh's ratcheting up of tensions with Iram and its attempted isolation of Qatar.

Salman is also overseeing economic austerity measures which will include a huge sell-off of shares in Saudi Aramco, the world's largest oil producer.

He has also worked to position his reputation as a reformer, establishing the country's entertainment network. But his prosecution of a war in Yemen, as the world's youngest defence minister with little military experience, has led to thousands of deaths and many more thousands displaced - and was said to further entrench divisions within the Saudi royal court over the choice of successor to King Salman, now aged 81.

Bin Salman's former rival, bin Nayef, who was himself appointed crown prince in 2015 after the Saudi king removed his own half-brother from the line of succession, has formally pledged loyalty to the king's new heir.

It is understood that the royal court has asked for public displays of allegiance to the new crown prince.

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