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15Jan16


This young prince could be the next Saudi king


Late last year, Germany's intelligence service issued a stern warning about Saudi Arabia: King Salman and his 30-year-old son, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, want to become "the dominant rulers of the Arab world," it claimed.

The entire region could be destabilized by their quest and the internal power struggles under way in the kingdom, the memo said.

When King Salman's reign began a year ago, Mohammed quickly began accumulating "more power than any prince has ever held, upending a longstanding system of distributing positions around the royal family to help preserve its unity," the New York Times reported.

The prince was appointed defense minister in January and was named deputy crown prince in April, "putting him second in line to the throne and ensuring that the kingdom's future rulers will come from Salman's own branch of the extensive royal family," The Washington Post reported at the time.

Despite the fact that Saudi Arabia does have some elections — last month, women were allowed to vote and run for office for the first time in municipal elections — the country remains an absolute monarchy.

As defense minister, Mohammed is overseeing a troubled Saudi-led coalition in neighboring Yemen that has been battling Iranian-aligned rebels since March. "The war is draining the Saudis militarily, politically, strategically," Farea al-Muslimi, a Yemen analyst at the Beirut-based Carnegie Middle East Center, told The Post's Hugh Naylor.

Both sides in the war have been accused of violations. The Saudi-led coalition "has repeatedly struck houses, schools, and hospitals where no military target was in sight," wrote Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director for Human Rights Watch.

As oil prices plunge, the Economist noted that the prince's "most dramatic moves may be at home. He seems determined to use the collapse in the price of oil to enact radical economic reforms."

The lifestyle of the young prince — and that of many of the kingdom's young royals — has apparently annoyed some Saudis. Reports of his "lavish parties in the Maldives and the crown prince's house-hunting for a Sardinian villa worth half a billion euros are fodder for social media, of which Saudis are keen users," the Economist also wrote.

Ford M. Fraker, the president of the Middle East Policy Council and a former United States ambassador to Saudi Arabia, told the New York Times that the "The king has put his son on an incredibly steep learning curve, clearly."

But he added: "The king is obviously convinced he is up to the challenge."

[Source: By Tiffany Harness, The Washington Post, 15Jan16]

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