- Title: Profile of Saudi Crown Prince
- Date: 27th September 2019
- Summary: Salman vows to bring Khashoggi killers to justice. RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA (FILE - OCTOBER 24, 2018) (REUTERS) CONFERENCE HALL
- Embargoed: 11th October 2019 08:40
- Keywords: MBS Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman U.S. President Donald Trump Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Future Investment Initiative Conference in Riyadh French President Francois Hollande
- Location: VARIOUS
- City: VARIOUS
- Country: Saudi Arabia
- Topics: Government/Politics,Editors' Choice
- Reuters ID: LVA00KAYGDLXJ
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Mohammed bin Salman, the young prince named heir to Saudi Arabia's throne, has built a reputation as a bold reformer intent on weaning the kingdom off oil and driving a far more aggressive foreign policy to counter the influence of arch-rival Iran.
Salman, born August 31, 1985, was appointed crown prince in June 2017 by his father King Salman, replacing his cousin who is 26 years his senior. This made the prince, who already oversaw defence and energy policy, the most powerful figure in the country by some stretch after the octogenarian monarch.
The decision represented a social and cultural sea change, with the ruling baton set to be passed to a much younger generation in a country where patriarchal traditions have long made power the province of the old.
If Mohammed bin Salman becomes king in his 30s, he would be the youngest monarch of the modern state.
The royal decree was a vote of confidence in a man widely lauded by younger Saudis but regarded warily by many older conservatives. He has embraced the media in a distinct departure from the normally secretive Saudi ruling class, with his bearded features rarely off TV screens or street billboards.
His elevation signalled an affirmation of his policies as the blueprint for the future of the Saudi economy, as well as of his more hawkish and interventionist foreign policy.
The Prince has had a rapid ascent to power: in his early years, he was almost unknown in the kingdom, but he quickly came to be regarded as the power behind its throne.
Mohammed bin Salman was propelled into the domestic and international limelight when his father Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud became Saudi Arabia's seventh king in 2015 and he was named deputy crown prince.
He heads the Council for Economic and Development Affairs which oversees all elements of policy that touch on the economy or social issues like education, health and housing. He also chairs the supreme board of Aramco, making him the first member of the ruling family to directly oversee the state oil company, long regarded as the preserve of commoner technocrats.
Now, with his elevation to crown prince, he has the kind of wide-ranging power and influence previously unseen in a figure outside the king.
On the economic front, bin Salman has announced sweeping changes labelled Vision 2030 aimed at ending the kingdom's reliance on oil. As well as diversifying the economy, the plans include pushing for women to have a bigger economic role and the partial privatization of state oil firm Saudi Aramco - reforms that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.
The prince's foreign policies are also reshaping the kingdom's role on the regional and global stage.
He is regarded by diplomats and analysts as a prime mover behind the decision to go to war in Yemen and, more recently, to lead Gulf Arab states in severing links with neighbouring Qatar.
Both decisions were indicative of a far more confrontational Saudi foreign policy, a break from the consensual style of Gulf Arab policy-making favoured by previous generations of dynastic rulers, as the Sunni Muslim kingdom moved to act aggressively to counter the influence of Shi'ite power Iran.
Yemen represents a proxy war between the two regional powerhouses, with Riyadh supporting the ousted government against Iranian-backed Houthi forces. Qatar has been accused by Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies of supporting terrorism and cozying up to Iran, all of which Qatar denies.
For many Saudis, the kingdom's new economic and foreign policy directions have become inextricably associated with the prince who has built a strong public profile with media interviews, mainly about his economic ambitions.
Outside Saudi Arabia, that rapid advance and the sudden changes to long-standing policies on regional affairs, energy and its economy have prompted unease, adding an unpredictable edge to a kingdom that allies long regarded as a known quantity.
Inside the country, opinions are divided.
Among many older Saudis, there has been considerable scepticism. They have seen previous economic reform plans come and go with only limited results, and are wary of rapid changes in one of the world's most conservative societies.
Some fear that Prince Mohammed's changes will simply serve to cause social ruptures or that however clever his policy changes, deep seated problems in Saudi bureaucracy will prevent any meaningful implementation.
But his Vision 2030 has prompted admiration among many younger Saudis who regard his ascent as evidence that for the first time their generation is taking a central place in running a country.
However, on October 2, 2018 Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a royal insider who became a critic of Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was killed in the kingdom's Istanbul consulate.
After making numerous contradictory statements about Khashoggi's fate, Riyadh said he had been killed and his body dismembered when negotiations to persuade him to return to Saudi Arabia failed.
The murder rattled the Saudi royal court and damaged the reputation of the 33-year-old Crown Prince.
The CIA and some Western countries believe Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing, which Saudi officials denied.
Khashoggi was close to the royal circles before becoming a critic of Prince Mohammed, writing for the Washington Post and speaking to international media about Saudi politics when he moved to the United States in 2017.
Saudi officials rejected accusations that the crown prince ordered his murder in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, in which Khashoggi's body was dismembered, removed from the building and handed over to an unidentified "local cooperator".
Amid international uproar over the killing, some members of Saudi Arabia's ruling family began agitating to prevent Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman from becoming king, three sources close to the royal court told Reuters.
Dozens of princes and cousins from powerful branches of the Al Saud family want to see a change in the line of succession but would not act while King Salman - the crown prince's 83-year-old father - is still alive, the sources said. They recognise that the king is unlikely to turn against his favourite son, known in the West as MbS.
Rather, they are discussing the possibility with other family members that after the king's death, Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, 76, a younger full brother of King Salman and uncle of the crown prince, could take the throne, according to the sources.
(Production Credit: Vanessa Romeo, Paul Warren)
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