26 October 2016
King Salman is making a dramatic departure from the old ways of doing things in Saudi Arabia. Photo: AFP
King Salman is making a dramatic departure from the old ways of doing things in Saudi Arabia. Photo: AFP

Shake-up in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, who succeeded the late King Abdullah in January, is shaking up the Middle East kingdom in an unprecedented and breathtaking fashion.

His dramatic departure from the old ways of doing things is best exemplified by his decision to launch air strikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen.

For decades, the kingdom has adopted a cautious approach in responding to regional crises and insisted on quiet diplomacy to resolve conflicts with neighbors.

But under King Salman, Saudi Arabia has suddenly taken the lead in what is widely perceived in the region as a military campaign backed by Sunni Arab states to block Shiite Iranian expansionism, BBC News said.

Just this week, he pulled another surprise by appointing a nephew as new heir and making his young son second in line to the throne.

Interior Minister Mohammed bin Nayef, 55, was named crown prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman, 30, deputy crown prince.

Overnight, the British broadcaster said, a country that has become accustomed to being ruled by kings in their 70s or 80s faces the prospect of a monarch-in-waiting in his 50s and his successor in his 30s.

The king also replaced Prince Saud al-Faisal as foreign minister after four decades in the job.

The prince’s departure may not be surprising, considering his ill health. But what was not expected was the king’s appointment of a commoner – Adel al-Jubeir, the country’s ambassador to the United States — as the new foreign minister.

The BBC said it is highly likely that he was appointed to the post because of the depth of his expertise in dealing with the superpower.

Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states are concerned that the US is leading talks between the international community and Iran over the latter’s nuclear program, and a deal could give Tehran greater influence in the region.

Meanwhile, King Salman ordered the granting of bonuses, equivalent to a month’s salary, to all members of the military and security establishments.

This, together with the appointment of the interior and defense ministers, who are playing key roles in the Yemen campaign, sends a signal to those in the ruling family who might be questioning the wisdom of the military operation that the leadership is committed to the strategy it has chosen, the BBC said.

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