On June 21, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman appointed his son Mohammad Bin Salman as his successor instead of Mohammad Bin Nayef. Mohammad Bin Nayef was also removed from his position as the head of internal security according to Saudi media outlets.
The royal statement decreed the following:
- Release of Bin Nayef from his duties as Vice President of the Ministry Council, Minister of Internal Affairs, and successor of the throne;
- The Emir Mohammad Bin Salman replaces Bin Nayef as the successor, and VP of the Ministers Council in addition to his role as Minister of Defense’
- The decree has to be implemented immediately.
31 out of 34 members of the Allegiance Council supposedly voted to elect Mohammad Bin Salman as the successor of the Saudi crown. Unconfirmed reports suggest that some in the Saudi royal family are upset with large accumulation of power under the young successor especially while his father King Salman is 81 with a waning health. The Arab tradition decrees that the older must rule.
The successor to the throne, Mohammad Bin Salman, is 35 years-old. He is the sixth son of King Salman. His mother is Fahda Bint Fallah Bin Sultan Al Hathleen Al-Ajami. Mohammad Bin Salman got his bachelor degree in law in the King Saud University. His first official job was an advisor in the Experts’ Board in the Saudi Ministers Council in April 10, 2007. He got his first sensitive position on the 23rd of January 2015 when a royal decree placed him as Head of the Royal Diwan (financial office) alongside Minister of Defense and private advisor to his father with the rank of minister.
On April 29th of 2015, King Salman published a royal decree announcing his son as the successor to the then-successor of the throne Bin Nayef as well as second VP of the Minister Council and President of the Economic and Growth Affairs Council. It is important to note that Mohammad Bin Salman still occupies the role of the minister of defense and VP of the Minsters Council. It is also widely believed that Bin Salman controls the Saudi oil sector.
Without a doubt, Mohammad Bin Salman will continue developing Saudi Arabia’s special relations with the United States after he personally met Donald Trump last March. At the end of the meeting, the Crown Prince expressed his optimism with Trump’s administration saying, “Today we are very optimistic with the leadership of President Trump and we believe that the challenges will be easy under his leadership.”
Mohammad Bin Salman has visited Russia several times. Saudi Arabia has maintained stable relations with Russia since the death of King Abdullah Bin Abd al-Aziz thanks to Mohammad Bin Salman’s foreign policy.
Mohammad Bin Salman is considered one of Iran’s biggest foes in the region. He publishes many direct hostile statements against the neighboring gulf country arguing that the age of Saudi confidence towards Iran has long passed. He declares that Saudi Arabia is the main target for the Iranian regime and that he will not wait until the battle starts inside the Saudi Kingdom but rather moves the battle to the Persian country. Notably, Mohammad Bin Salman is the engineer of the Saudi intervention in Yemen and is big supporter of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
Muhammad Bin Nayef, a son of Emir Nayef Bin Abdel Aziz Al Saud, is 57. Married to Jawhara bint Abdel Aziz Bin Musa’id Bin Jalwi Al Saud, Naif Bin Abdel Aziz was the crown prince and Minister of Internal Affairs. Mohammad Bin Nayef studied political science in the Louis & Clarke College in 1981 without getting a degree. He took his first official position on May 13 1999 when a royal decree placed him as assistant to the Minister of Internal Affairs for security matters. Since then, Bin Nayef’s work had been focused on counterterrorism and terrorist rehabilitation. King Fahd Bin Abdel Aziz awarded him for his successful planning during the operation to free the hijacked Russian plane in Emir Mohammad Bin Abdel Aziz Airport on March 6, 2001.
On February 20, 2014, Bin Nayef took control of the Syrian file from Prince Bandar Bin Sultan after Bandar’s failure to achieve any success in Syria for 3 years. Reports suggested that Bandar Bin Sultan depended on terrorist’s groups and sheer violence as the only way to resolve the Syrian conflict as he was the planner and supported of the two offensive operations on Aleppo and Damascus in 2012 which Syria has not yet healed from their effects until now.
During Bin Nayef’s legacy the Saudi policy in Syria didn’t change much as the gulf monarchy continued supporting several militant groups including internationally-recognized terrorist groups. However, it stayed within certain boundaries following the Russian intervention in 2015.
It remains unknown whether the Syrian file was relocated from Bin Nayef to someone else following his removal from the Head of Internal Security position. Many speculate he will continue to manage the Saudi policy in Syria. Even if Bin Salman is to take over the Syrian file, Saudi Arabia’s approach to Syria will likely remain the same.
It is hard to predict Mohammad Bin Salman’s general policy in the nearest future especially that he is extremely young and has been busy attempting to prove his worth since 2015 in leading the kingdom.
Furthermore, some experts links the recent developments in Saudi Arabia with the ongoing diplomatic crisis over Qatar. It’s possible that King Salman made the decision to appoint Mohammad Bin Salman as his successor because Bin Nayef had some times with the Qatari leadership. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey used to cooperate actively in Syria. However, this situation has changed dramatically since the start of the Russian military operation in the country.