Saudi Arabia Rewrites Succession as King Replaces Heir With Son, 31

   < < Go Back
from The New York Times,

King Salman of Saudi Arabia promoted his 31-year-old son, Mohammed bin Salman, to be next in line to the throne on Wednesday, further empowering a young and ambitious leader who has upended the ruling family at a time of deep Saudi involvement in conflicts across the Middle East.

The king’s decision to remove the previous crown prince, Mohammed bin Nayef, 57, capped two and a half years of dramatic changes that have erased decades of royal custom and reordered the power structure inside the kingdom, a close American ally. And it came as Saudi Arabia was already grappling with low oil prices, and intensifying hostilities both with Iran and in its own circle of Sunni Arab states.

In sweeping aside Mohammed bin Nayef, the king marginalized a large cadre of older princes, many with foreign educations and decades of government experience that the younger prince lacks. If Mohammed bin Salman does succeed his father, he could rule the kingdom for many decades.

Prince Mohammed’s swift rise and growing influence had already rankled other princes who accused him of undermining Mohammed bin Nayef. But such complaints are likely to remain private in a ruling family that prizes stability above all else.

“A lot of people are happy that a younger generation is coming to power, but those who are upset are the older generation, no doubt about it, who are not to used to this kind of dramatic change,” said Joseph A. Kechichian, a senior fellow at the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, who has extensive contacts inside the family. “Even if people are uncomfortable, at the end of the day this is a monarchical decision, and people will either have to accept the new arrangement or they will essentially have to keep their mouths shut.”

The young prince, known as M.B.S., emerged from obscurity after his 81-year-old father ascended to the throne in January 2015. He has since accumulated vast powers, serving as defense minister, overseeing the state oil monopoly, working to overhaul the Saudi economy and building ties with foreign leaders, including President Trump.

His supporters praise him as working hard to fulfill a hopeful vision for the kingdom’s future, especially for its large youth population. His critics call him power hungry, and fear that his inexperience has embroiled Saudi Arabia in costly problems with no clear exits, like the war in neighboring Yemen.

Since the death of the founder of modern Saudi Arabia, King Abdulaziz Al Saud, in 1953, control of the absolute monarchy has been passed between his sons, a system that raised questions about the future as the brothers grew older and began dying.

More From The New York Times: