‘Recycling takes hold in Saudi Arabia. After centuries of power passing from father to son-King Saud, the founder, has witnessed a hundred-the new monarch Salam, who ascended the throne last January is changing the rules of the game. In the Kingdom, the land of the two Holy Mosques, the time has come for grandchildren. So the estate of power has beens released and will rely on the endless array of young Saudi dynasty descendants. Salman has appointed his heir, Interior Minister Mohammed bin Nayef, a grandson direct in line, thus making his son, Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman, second in line of succession in a major reshuffle at the top of the country, primary exporter of oil in the world. A choice that led to the removal of the Crown Prince Moqren bin Abdul Aziz bin Saud chosen by the late King Abdullah with a decree last year just a few months before his death. A choice of King Salam which entrusts the Kingdom to the future generations. Nominating in fact Mohammed bin Nayef, 55-year-old heir of the Crown, and Mohammed bin Salman, 30, his Deputy, the Saudi monarch has arranged his succession for the next decades by strengthening his dynasty and cementing relations with the United States. A slap in the face to those who think that the spoil system is only a feature of Italy. Bin Nayef has close relations with the United States. The King, made another very significant change, replacing the Foreign Minister, Prince Saud al Faisal, a veteran Saudi diplomat Summit since 1975, with the Kingdom’s Ambassador to Washington, Adel al Jubeir, first non-aristocrat to hold this position.
It must be said that these changes had in fact been announced a few days following the crowning of King Salman in January this year. With this government reshuffle, the new Saudi King wants to grant more power to the Sudairi clan within the Royal family and move away from power, Moqren bin Abdul Aziz, who will retain only formal powers.
The new heir bin Nayef, as Minister of the Interior had already taken over the Syrian issue since last year, effectively stripping Bandar bin Sultan, who was also a grandson of ibn Saud, who had been Ambassador in Washington for more than 20 years, from 1983 to 2005, when King Abdullah recalled him to give him the management of the Saudi National Security Council. Between 2012 and 2014 he had been the head of Saudi intelligence. However, the parable of Bandar’s policy ends with the failure in managing the Syrian issue, which he had been entrusted since the beginning of the conflict. To benefit from this, bin Nayef, who has taken over the position since February 2014, the date that marks the passage of final deliveries between the two and his ascent to the throne. In favour of the new heir bin Nayef is also the fight against terrorism of Al Quaida from 1999, as Assistant to the Minister of the Interior, he had devised a plan against terrorism and rebel groups who would team up with the Al quaida on the Arabian peninsula. Bin Nayef, in the years following September 11, 2001, when Al Qaeda escalated attacks in Saudi Arabia, had also succeeded in containing the threat with the help of United States intelligence. He has also devised a rehabilitation programme for Bin Laden’s followers who were arrested.
Behind this reshuffling of powers, there has also been a regional crisis which had accentuated with the Arab Spring, and the rise of the unpopular Muslim Brotherhood Saudi dynasty but backed by Qatar. Riad has arrested hundreds of Ikhwan, Muslim Brotherhood followers, fearing the cotamination of the Arab Spring from north Africa. The Saudis have played hard. First with the withdrawal of its Ambassador from Qatar, then the announcement of the closure of Al Jazeera offices in Riyadh. The Saudi Kingdom, allied with the Emirates and Bahrain, has forced Doha to round of talks and to sign an agreement with whom Qatar has undertaken, at least formally, to change position. “Enough with labelling the Egyptian military intervention as a coup. Enough with supporting the brotherhood ” is the tones of the agreement. A necessary act, seeing Saudi Arabia’s decision to intervene in Yemen against Houthi rebels of Shiite faith supported by Iran. This intervention in the Muslim Brotherhood and the Shiite interference in the Middle East, does not appear though it is effectively directed against Salafi Jihadists who have proclaimed the Islamic Caliphate and based their power on the ferocity and on the foundations of Wahhabism, which is the cornerstone of the Saud dynasty and Saudi Kingdom.
Changes in the Saudi Arabia’s button room has come at a moment of deep crisis for the country. The Royal Decree has also affected the most sensitive oil sector. The Ceo of Aramco, Khalid al-Falih, becomes Minister of health and Chairman of Aramco, a position previously held by the powerful oil Minister Ali al-Naimi, who keeps his post. Naimi, aged 79, Oil Minister since 1995, championed the decision last November, not to cut oil production to support crude oil prices, which had halved by June 2014.
Translation provided by Marina Stronati