Saudi Arabia’s hidden power struggle comes into the open

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman (L) has bent the traditional rules of succession to facilitate the rise of his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to the pinnacle of power (source: dpa)
  • The Arab Spring taught Saudi rulers that drastic changes are needed to keep power
  • King Salman has flouted traditional consensus to install his 32-year-old son as heir
  • The new crown prince has a poor record on foreign policy and mixed results at home
  • Internal tensions could ultimately block his succession or even spur a revolt

In January 2015, Salman bin Abdulaziz succeeded his half-brother Abdullah as the king of Saudi Arabia. During the three years of his reign, the country has witnessed changes that observers would not have thought possible at the time of his ascension to the throne. To date, the most momentous political event was the arrest of 208 high-ranking individuals on November 5, 2017, on suspicion of corruption and embezzlement of public funds. The detained included well-known princes of the House of Saud, current and former ministers and business leaders. Although most were later released after paying billions of dollars in fines, this bold move pointed to a power struggle within the kingdom.

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