AMIR CONGRATULATES SAUDI KING ON APPOINTMENT
DUBAI, June 21, (Agencies): Saudi Arabia’s King Salman made his son next in line to the throne on Wednesday, handing the 31-year-old sweeping powers as the kingdom seeks radical overhaul of its oil-dependent economy and faces mounting tensions with regional rival Iran. Although Mohammed bin Salman’s promotion to crown prince had long been expected among those who follow the royal family closely, the timing was a surprise, and puts the kingdom’s future in relatively untested hands.
Mohammed bin Salman replaces his cousin, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, a veteran security chief who led the Saudi campaign against Islamic State and al-Qaeda, at a time when Riyadh faces heightened tensions with Qatar and Iran and is locked into a war in Yemen.
His appointment may make Saudi policy more hawkish against arch-rival Iran and other Gulf rivals such as Qatar, increasing volatility in an already unstable region, analysts say. “Under his watch, Saudi Arabia has developed aggressive foreign policies (Yemen, Qatar) and he has not been shy about making strong statements against Iran,” said Olivier Jakob at Switzerland-based oil consultancy Petromatrix. “It is not really a question of if, but rather of when, a new escalation with Iran starts,” he added.
His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al- Jaber Al-Sabah sent a cable of congratulations to Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman Bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia on the appointment of Mohammad Bin Salman as Crown Prince, Deputy Premier and Defense Minister. In the cable, His Highness the Amir wished everlasting health to King Salman, as well as utmost prosperity to the Kingdom and Saudi people. His Highness the Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah sent cables of similar sentiment to the Saudi King. Iran, Saudi Arabia’s main rival for regional influence, called Prince Mohammed’s appointment a “soft coup”. Its leadership was critical of comments by Prince Mohammed last month that the “battle” should be taken into Iran, with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei labelling the Saudi leaders then as “idiots”. Iran, which is predominantly Shi’ite Muslim, and Saudi Arabia, which is mostly Sunni, compete for power and influence across the region.
The two countries support opposite sides in the conflicts in both Syria and Yemen. US President Donald Trump made his first speech abroad in Riyadh last month, aligning with the views of his hosts in singling out Iran as a source of support for militant groups. He met separately with Mohammed bin Salman during the visit. Washington did not have advance warning of the young prince’s promotion but could see it coming, a senior US administration official said.
“This is why the president has tried to foster good relations with him,” the official told Reuters. Analysts say the young prince’s rapid rise has created friction within the ruling family, however, and made Saudi policy less predictable than in recent decades. The reshuffle sparked speculation on Twitter about a possible future abdication by the octogenarian King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in favour of his son, whose youth and dynamism have appealed to younger Saudis who make up the majority in society and are often eager for change.
After decades in which the same small group of princes handled Saudi affairs on the world stage, Prince Mohammed has led diplomacy with global powers, reportedly charming both US President Defense Minister Sheikh Mohammad Al-Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, Deputy Minister of Amiri Diwan Affairs Sheikh Ali Jarrah Al-Sabah, Deputy Premier and Interior Minister Sheikh Khaled Al-Jarrah Al-Sabah, head of the accompanying mission of honor Faisal Mohammad Al-Hajji Bukhadour, Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs and Acting Minister of Information Sheikh Mohammad Al-Abdullah Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah and Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Al-Jarallah. (KUNA)