The very influential crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed Bin Salman, was given new powers on Tuesday, September 27, by becoming prime minister of the oil kingdom – a position traditionally held by the king himself. Mohammed bin Salman, who is the country’s de facto ruler, was appointed ” Prime Minister “, reported a decree of King Salman, his father, published by the official news agency SPA. In Saudi Arabia, the king is head of state and chairman of the council of ministers.
With this appointment, the man nicknamed “MBS” consolidates his power, after a return to the forefront of the international scene of the Saudi kingdom diplomatically isolated since the assassination, in 2018, of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi – a critic of Riyadh – at the consulate of his country in Istanbul (Turkey).
Mohammed bin Salman was previously deputy prime minister under his father, King Salman, as well as defense minister. He is replaced as defense minister by his younger brother, Khaled Ben Salman, who was previously deputy defense minister, according to the same source. The ministries of interior, foreign affairs and energy were not affected by the government reshuffle, according to the royal decree.
de facto leader
Prince Mohammed, who turned 37 on August 31, is in the front line to succeed his father at the head of the Arab world’s largest economy. He is expected to become, by far, the youngest of the Saudi dynasty to ascend to the throne after the death of his elderly and weakened father. In recent years there have been growing rumors about the state of health of the sovereign, 86, who has been hospitalized twice this year, most recently in May.
Since being named crown prince in 2017, MBS has ruled Saudi Arabia de facto. He jostled a sluggish country with sweeping reforms while brutally suppressing the opposition. But he is an essential interlocutor internationally.
Before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, the Saudi kingdom – and the crown prince in particular – sought to overcome the diplomatic isolation imposed by most Western countries after the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi. After his election, US President Joe Biden even declassified a report concluding that MBS had ” valid “ this assassination, which the Saudi authorities have always denied.
But since the Russian invasion and soaring energy prices, Joe Biden, former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other Western leaders have visited the kingdom, one of the world’s top oil exporters. in the world, to try to convince Riyadh to pump more crude.
Tuesday’s Saudi announcement also came after MBS mediated the release by Russia and the September 21 transfer to Saudi Arabia of ten prisoners of war, including five British and two Americans.
Appointing the crown prince as prime minister is an unusual move, but not unprecedented. In the 1950s, Crown Prince Faisal became prime minister, which ultimately led to a power struggle that culminated, several years later, in the abdication of then-King Saud. This scenario is different because it is “to formalize a de facto situation”said Ali Shihabi, a Saudi analyst close to the government.