In what many are calling a surprise power-shift, Mohammed bin Salman has been made first in line to succeed the king, stripping the now former Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef of his title and his roles as deputy prime minister and interior minister.
“This is a much more rapid consolidation of power than was expected,” CNN Middle East Correspondent John Defterios said. “It gives allies and the Kingdom’s counterparts a clear indication of who is in charge today and who will lead the Kingdom, potentially for decades.”
Defterios added that many key reform policies currently in place — such as the Vision 2030 plan and a planned IPO by Saudi oil giant Aramco — were already being driven by Mohammed bin Salman.
Barak Seener, a Middle East associate fellow at the UK-based Royal United Services Institute, said as successor, bin Salman “will have greater influence to implement social and economic modernization efforts.”
He predicted this will “spill over into Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy,” with the new crown prince favoring a more confrontational stance with Iran in particular.
“As the Trump administration has strategically realigned the US away from Iran and towards Sunni states, bin Salman is the ideal leader for the US to coordinate defense and security efforts in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and the Gulf,” Seener said.
Images published in Saudi state media showed the new crown prince kissing the hand of his cousin Mohammed bin Nayef, who was said to have pledged allegiance to the man who has replaced him at the Safa Palace in Mecca.
When and if bin Salman succeeds his father, he will be the first Saudi king who is not the son of the country’s founder King Abdul Aziz Al Saud, also known as Ibn Saud.
There has been speculation for years as to the future line of succession, with the throne moving between the increasingly aged sons of Ibn Saud.
By elevating his own son first to crown prince, King Salman appears to have cut off other branches of the family from the throne.