Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdul Aziz elevated his son Mohammed bin Salman as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s (KSA) crown prince on Wednesday, replacing former crown prince and the King’s nephew Mohamed Bin Nayef.
The decision entitles Bin Salman as the first in line to become the Saudi Arabia’s next king.
A royal decree indicated that the 31-year-old Mohammed bin Salman was also named deputy prime minister and will maintain his position as minister of defence, according to a KSA-owned news agency.
The ousted crown prince Mohammed bin Nayef has been stripped of all his offices, including that of the country’s interior minister, the state news agency said.
Bin Salman is the Saudi defence minister; chairperson of the Council for Economic and Development Affairs (CEDA), which oversees economic policies in the KSA; and the chairperson of the supreme board of Aramco.
Bin Salman has been influential in Saudi politics since his father became king of the KSA in 2015. Many of the decisions that the king has made indicated that he was paving the way for his son to be seated during his lifetime, according to political science professor Hassan Nafaa.
He orchestrated the recent decisions to cut diplomatic ties with Qatar, Nafaa explained to Daily News Egypt, as Saudi Arabia announced that it decided to cut ties and all transportation means through land, sea, and air with Qatar because of reasons related to Saudi national security and to protect it from terrorism and extremism, according to an official statement.
Saudi Arabia accused Doha of supporting Shiite rebels in the eastern Saudi state of Al-Qatif and in Bahrain, in addition to supporting the Houthi group in Yemen, according to the statement, which added that all these groups are backed by Iran.
Bin Salman was also the man responsible for the war in Yemen, a decision which reflected one of the very few times the KSA chose the military intervention option, Nafaa said, explaining that the new crown prince represented “bold” direction of KSA policies.
In March 2015, Saudi Arabia conducted air-strikes within Yemen, targeting areas controlled by the Houthis, including the capital Sana’a, to re-establish the “legitimacy” of the government of president Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, who was the Saudi-recognized ruler of Yemen.
The prince made some controversial statements during a recent televised interview, in which he said, “We won’t wait for the battle to be in Saudi Arabia; instead, we will work so that the battle is for them in Iran, not in Saudi Arabia.”
Furthermore, Nafaa explained the US-approval of elevating Bin Salman as crown prince, saying “it was obvious that Obama’s administration trusted Nayef’s experience in combating terrorism, but now the case has changed, and it is clear that Trump approved Salman’s promotion during his recent visit to Riyadh.”
Bin Salman met with United States president Donald J. Trump in March 2017, a meeting which Saudi officials described as “a historical turning point in relations between both countries,” according to Reuters.
Although Trump expressed his support of the decision by Gulf countries to cut ties with Qatar, the US state department said that the KSA “may have provoked a crisis and drawn in the United States on false pretenses,” The Washington Post reported.
Nevertheless, cutting diplomatic ties with Qatar was a decision that several countries in the region made earlier in June, including the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Egypt. Nafaa predicted that KSA’s bilateral relations will grow even closer with the former.
Meanwhile, Egypt’s president Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi asserted the strength of relations between his country and the KSA in different fields on Wednesday, during a congratulatory telephone conversation with the new crown prince Bin Salman.
Although ties between the two countries are now stable, Egypt and Saudi Arabia have suffered a phase of apathy. Observers of the region attributed the stressed ties to the countries’ different views on the conflicts in Syria, as well as the legal and judicial obstacles impeding the transfer of ownership of the Tiran and Sanafir islands to the kingdom.
In April 2016, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and Saudi King Salman bin Abdelaziz Al-Saud attended the signing ceremony of several cooperation agreements in various fields, according to the State Information Services (SIS). “Prime Minister Sherif Ismail and Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman bin Abdelaziz signed an agreement on maritime border demarcation between Egypt and Saudi Arabia,” read the statement.
“This was a gift presented to Mohamed Bin Salman. It was noticeable that he was the one who signed the agreement, although Nayef should have been the one to sign it… so it was planned to express his power,” Nafaa explained.
In an interview with Saudi channel Al-Arabiya, Bin Salman asserted that the two islands of Tiran and Sanafir belong to Saudi Arabia. “Tiran and Sanafir are recorded as Saudi islands in the Egyptian, Saudi, and international records,” he said.
The islands of Tiran and Sanafir are located in a strategic location at the southern tip of the Gulf of Aqaba, controlling the movement through the Gulf.
“All of these decisions are part of a framework to justify his promotion to crown prince of Saudia Arabia,” Nafaa said about the 31-year-old prince, who is described as “making a more powerful case for KSA than any Saudi official had done before,” by Foreign Affairs magazine, and “shattering decades of tradition in the royal family,” by the New York Times for the power he had even before rising to crown prince of the KSA.