Capping a meteoric rise for the 31-year-old that puts him just one step away from the throne, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman on Wednesday named his son Mohammed bin Salman as crown prince. By doing this, he completed a gradual removal of powers from the previous Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who has been fired. Mohammed bin Nayef, Salman’s nephew and a counter-terrorism chief, who has been admired in Washington for crushing an al Qaeda bombing campaign in 2003-2006, was relieved of his posts, the decree said. Prince Mohammed’s rise comes at a crucial time for Saudi Arabia which is in a battle for regional influence with arch-rival Iran, bogged down in a controversial military intervention in neighbouring Yemen and at loggerheads with fellow US Gulf ally Qatar.
US President Donald Trump congratulated the young royal during a phone call in which the White House said they committed to close cooperation on “security, stability, and prosperity across the Middle East and beyond”. The White House said Trump discussed with him “the priority of cutting off all support for terrorists and extremists, as well as how to resolve the ongoing dispute with Qatar”. British Prime Minister Theresa May also welcomed Prince Mohammed’s appointment. Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani also congratulated the new crown prince, expressing hopes for “brotherly relations between the two brotherly countries”. His rapid ascent in the past two years has symbolised the hopes of the kingdom’s young population, more than half of which is under 25. Here are things to know about him:-
– Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been elevated to the position of crown prince and deputy prime minister and will maintain his post as minister of defense
– Born on August 31, 1985, received his education at Riyadh schools where he ranked among the top 10 students in his class, according to Arab News. Further, he received his bachelor’s degree in law from King Saud University (KSU).
– He has international experience in corporate governance and international finance
– Beginning his political career as a consultant to the Experts Commission under the Saudi Cabinet, later he was appointed special adviser to then-Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz, who at the time was governor of Riyadh province.
– His long history of philanthropic initiatives earned him applauds from various walks of life
– Ex-US President Barack Obama had described him as extremely knowledgeable, very smart and wise beyond his years, according to Arab News
– Reportedly, his appointment is likely to make Saudi policy more hawkish against arch-rival Iran and other Gulf rivals such as Qatar, increasing volatility in an already unstable region, analysts said.
– Iran, Saudi Arabia’s main rival for regional influence, has called Prince Mohammed’s appointment a soft coup. Noteworhty, Iran, which is predominantly Shi’ite Muslim, and Saudi Arabia, which is mostly Sunni, compete for power and influence across the region. The two countries support opposite sides in the conflicts in Syria and Yemen.