Shifting Sands: Saudi Arabia’s Succession

Saudi Arabia underwent another dramatic shift in mid-June when Saudi ruler King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud elevated his son, Prince Mohammad Bin Salman (MbS), to the position of Crown Prince in place of his elder cousin Mohammad bin Nayef (MbN). At first, it appeared that Nayef supported the move when the Saudi press released a video in which Nayef kissed his younger cousin’s hand and declared his loyalty to him. However, a couple of weeks ago, reports began to surface that Nayef had actually been forced to accept his demotion, stripped of his role as interior minister, and confined to house arrest.

MbS’ rapid ascension through the ranks of the Saudi royal family began in January 2015 when King Salman assumed the throne following the death of his half-brother King Abdullah. Salman swiftly moved to appoint his son as Minister of Defense and put him in charge of overseeing the country’s economic portfolio. In April 2015, King Salman reshuffled the dynastic line of succession, naming Nayef as Crown Prince and MbS as Deputy Crown Prince. The latest shake-up has forced Nayef out of the fold completely and cleared the path for MbS to consolidate power and eventually succeed his 81-year-old father.

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