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The Unpredictable Succession Plan Of Saudi Arabia

The constant reshuffling of princes among key Saudi ministries demonstrates the lack of a clear plan of succession to the Saudi throne, Madawi Al-Rasheed writes.
Saudi Princes attend the meeting of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and France's President Francois Hollande at the Royal Palace in Jeddah November 4, 2012. REUTERS/Saudi Press Agency/Handout (SAUDI ARABIA - Tags: POLITICS ROYALS) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS - RTR39ZM6

Saudi Arabia is neither an island of tranquility in a turbulent Arab sea nor a country on the verge of revolution. Rather, it is a kingdom in regression, plagued by regular reshuffling of princes and lacking energetic leadership with a serious vision for the future. Its aging king, Abdullah, has had two of his most senior brothers, Minister of Interior Naif and Minister of Defense Sultan, die within the last two years while he continues to hold on to the reins of power as an honorable senior member of an expanding clan-turned-corporation. All King Abdullah can do these days is micromanage the demands of the second-generation princes eager to secure a political post after his death, hence he regularly reshuffles.

Political posts in senior ministries bring not only power and privilege, but also incredible wealth, as ministers buy services and equipment for the state under conditions of opaqueness and corruption. The most recent reshuffle involved the sacking of Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid ibn Sultan, known as the Desert Warrior when he was head of the armed forces in the 1990–91 Gulf War, and his replacement with Prince Fahd ibn Abdullah ibn Muhammd ibn Abdulrahman. In January 2013, the powerful governor of the Eastern Province, Muhammad ibn Fahd, was relieved of his duties and replaced by Saud ibn Naif, the brother of the minister of interior, Muhammad ibn Naif, both descendants of the once powerful, but now-deceased Naif. These appointments put the Naif clan in charge of internal security and oil, the most important foundations for the survival of the Saudi monarchy. 

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