THE LEVANT NEWS – By MIKAYLA BOUCHARD — The New York Times published this background information on the most powerful figures in the Saudi kingdom of Arabia, and where they stand in the sometimes complicated order of royal succession:
King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud
Son of Saudi Arabia’s founder, King Abdul Aziz al Saud
King Salman assumed power in January 2015 after the death of his brother, King Abdullah. Not long after gaining control of the monarchy, he implemented a new line of succession, signaling a departure from the ways of his predecessor.
With the rising influence of Saudi Arabia’s regional adversary, Iran, King Salman has governed with activist policies to show the kingdom’s strength in the Middle East as the region is further consumed with sectarian and jihadist violence.
The king has not signaled a relaxation of the Sunni Muslim country’s conservative norms. In fact, the kingdom recently drew criticism for beheading Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a Shiite cleric that criticized the kingdom’s treatment of the minority religious group.
INTERIOR MINISTER Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef
First in line for the throne. King Abdul Aziz al Saud’s grandson and King Salman’s nephew.
Prince Mohammed, 56, is well liked in Saudi Arabia, and is respected in the royal family for cracking down on Al Qaeda. He has a history of working with United States intelligence agencies on counterterrorism and is credited with developing a family-oriented approach to stopping terror recruitment within the kingdom.
Prince Mohammed is the deputy prime minister, the minister of the interior and also controls the oil ministry. Because he has no sons, Prince Mohammed is viewed as having an interest in the well-being of the institution as a whole, rather than a personal interest in a succession that could further exacerbate internal family conflict. He is in deep competition, however, with the king’s son, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, for influence.
Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
Second in line for the throne. King Abdul Aziz al Saud’s grandson and King Salman’s son.
Prince Mohammed, 30, is the youngest defense minister in the world. His swift accumulation of power and influence in his country has upended the usual power balance within the branches of the vast royal family. His father put him in charge of the state oil monopoly, the public investment company, economic policy and the ministry of defense.
The designation of two consecutive heirs to the throne signals some stability for the monarchy, but among the diplomatic community the young leader has been called “rash” and quick to action. He has pressed more assertive foreign policies for Saudi Arabia, acting early on as one of the most visible leaders in the air war against Yemen. He also announced in December an Islamic military coalition of 34 nations, to be headquartered in Saudi Arabia, which would combat terrorism.
Not a member of the royal family.
Educated in the United States and accustomed to Western culture, Mr. Jubeir was once the Saudi ambassador to the United States. He previously had a reputation as being active in the Washington social scene, but has since been viewed as taking on the mantle of statesman.
He was appointed foreign minister in April 2015 and has been a key figure in many of the negotiations involving the United States and the Middle East, such as stemming the violence in Syria and accepting, if grudgingly, the Iran nuclear deal.
There has been an escalation in diplomatic tensions between the kingdom and Iran after Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic ties with Tehran due to protests over the Saudi execution of the Shiite cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.
SOURCE: THE NEW YORK TIMES