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In Saudi Shakeup, Economics Tops Counterterrorism

| June 21, 2017

The new crown prince has an eye to the future, but the old one was a loyal friend of the West.

The latest big news out of the Middle East is that Saudi Arabian King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has ousted the crown prince and installed his 31-year-old son, Mohammed bin Salman, in that position. While the world waits to see more of the reaction from Saudis and others in the region, a few quick thoughts come to my mind.

First, the news feels stunning because of its significance; if MbS (as the new crown prince is known) becomes king, he will be the first monarch who is not a son of King Abdulaziz al Saud, the founder of Saudi Arabia.

Yet today’s news is hardly unexpected. Since King Salman elevated MbS to deputy crown prince in 2015, those inside the kingdom and close observers from the outside have debated the odds around various scenarios through which the young prince might eventually come to power. More tangibly, a series of royal decrees in April made a raft of personnel adjustments. Although not really registering on radar screens in the West, these changes weakened the power base of the then-crown prince Mohammed bin Nayef. They seeded loyalists to the younger prince, in many of the regional governor posts across the country.

Second, intentionally or not, the king is sending a message about his -- and therefore the country’s -- priorities in removing Mohammed bin Nayef from all his posts, including minister of interior. That message is that fighting terrorism is not the highest priority of the country, nor maybe even in the top tier. Nayef was rightly recognized and appreciated -- particularly by the U.S. -- for his work fighting terrorism inside and outside the kingdom, and was a key partner of the U.S.

For more information on this publication: Please contact Geopolitics of Energy Project
For Academic Citation: O'Sullivan, Meghan.“In Saudi Shakeup, Economics Tops Counterterrorism.” Bloomberg View, June 21, 2017.

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