SHAKE UP Mohammed bin Salman named crown prince, replaces cousin as next in line to throne
DUBAI: 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.
He 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.
Mohammed bin Salman’s appointment may make Saudi policy more hawkish against Iran and Gulf rivals such as Qatar, increasing volatility in an unstable region, analysts say.
A favourite son of his elderly father, his youth and dynamism have also appealed to many younger Saudis, who constitute the biggest proportion of 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 Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Mohammed bin Salman was appointed crown prince and deputy prime minister by royal decree. Intent on dispelling speculation of internal divisions in the ruling dynasty, Saudi television was quick to show that the change in succession was amicable and supported by the family.
Throughout the early morning it aired footage of Mohammed bin Nayef pledging allegiance to the younger Mohammed bin Salman, who knelt and kissed his cousin’s hand.