Spotlight: Saudi king appoints new crown prince amid escalating regional rifts

Source: Xinhua| 2017-06-21 17:55:07|Editor: ying
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RIYADH, June 21 (Xinhua) -- Saudi Arabia took a drastic decision on Wednesday to appoint new crown prince, despite being in a middle of major regional rifts with the severing of diplomatic ties with neighbor country Qatar.

Saudi Arabia led UAE, Bahrain and Egypt on June 5 in announcing severing all ties with Qatar in a major escalation to the rifts between Qatar and remaining Gulf countries.

The decision includes closing all of its borders with the country, including the land border it shares with Qatar. The three Gulf states accused Qatar of supporting terrorist groups in Yemen and Syria and having good ties with Iran.

Saudis woke up early on Wednesday morning to learn about the decision of Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to appoint his son Prince Mohammed bin Salman as the monarchy's new Crown Prince, to replace Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, a man known for years of counterterrorism efforts.

The former Crown Prince was also relieved from his post as interior minister, while Prince Mohammed Salman was appointed also as deputy prime minister and kept his previous post as defense minister.

Although the decision wasn't expected, but it won't be hard for Saudis to accept the 31-years old as new Crown Prince who has been worldwide known as economic reformist to end his country decades of oil-dependency to get his people ready to deal with post-oil era.

Although no reason was stated for the huge government reshuffle, but it could be seen as a reward for the young prince who met with the U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House in March, which was recognized as a success to Saudi Arabia.

Both discussed investment opportunities that turned into reality during Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia last month, in which the two states signed agreements worth around 280 billion U.S. dollars.

The agreements that cover military, commercial, energy and petrochemicals sectors are expected to offer hundreds of thousands of jobs in both countries.

Besides his economic-oriented mind, Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been actively involved in the defense affairs of Saudi Arabia as the defense minister.

He pursued a war in Yemen, leading forces from other Arab states to fight Houthis to protect the interests of Yemeni elected government. Although the high number of Yemeni casualties is undeniable, such issue didn't overshadow his image as the bright future of Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi Press Agency confirmed that 31 out of 34 members of Saudi Arabia's Allegiance Council chose Mohammed bin Salman as the kingdom's crown prince. The new tasks won't be difficult to be performed by him as he had major roles in the country as deputy crown prince.

King Salman has called for a public pledging of allegiance to the new Crown Prince in Mecca on Wednesday, a tradition followed by Saudi Arabia as part of Islamic regulations.

In 2015, Saudi King appointed his nephew Prince Mohammed bin Nayef as the Crown Prince after his brother former Crown Prince Mugrin bin Abdulaziz Al Saud stepped down. Prince Mohammed bin Nayef is widely known as Saudi Arabia's counterterrorism czar.

To eliminate rumors that the former crown prince was forced to leave his post, local press, including Al Arabiya news website circulated a video that shows Prince Mohammed bin Nayef pledging allegiance to the kingdom's new Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Analysts predicted that the surprise move will have direct influence on Saudi Arabia's foreign policy, as the new crown prince believes in more confrontational stance, especially with Iran.

With his last successful visit to the U.S. in March, he is also a good candidate to work with the Trump administration in defense and security efforts in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and the Gulf.

The new appointment is a change in generations-old trend of passing power between the sons of Abdulaziz Al Saud the founder of Saudi Arabia, as all previous Saudi Kings were the sons of Abdulaziz, while it is expected that Prince Mohammed bin Salman to be the first grandson to take over the ruling of the monarchy.

This will solve the problem of the throne moving between the increasingly aged sons of the founder.

It is still early to predict if the move will cast away other branches of Al Saud from power of ruling the country and keeping it only among the children of the current king.