The Saudi Succession

The appointment of Muhammad bin Naif as deputy crown prince by the new King of Saudi Arabia, Salman bin Abdelaziz is the strongest signal possible that the family has come to a consensus on the transfer of power to the next generation. It has been widely speculated that there could be substantial infighting among the princes when the last of the sons of Abdelaziz were gone. This appointment confirms what I have said previously, that the family values its hold on power above everything else and that they would hang together.

It can also be assumed that this choice was ratified by the elective council created by the late King Abdullah, if not formally at least through a canvass of the princes holding the votes in that council.

The choice of Muhammad bin Naif also signals a strong continuance of the Saudi state security apparatus. The family’s commitment to keeping dissident elements in line and to crush Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula should not be in any doubt. However, Naif bin Abdelaziz was not a great friend of the United States and infamously denied the involvement of Saudi nationals in the 9/11 attack we can assume that his son is probably cut from the same cloth.

The preoccupations of the Saudi monarchy, no matter who sits on the throne, will be to stay in power, confront the challenge of Iran, and walk the tightrope of co-opting, using and appeasing the harder line Islamist elements in their society, and keeping an increasingly younger population from becoming too restless.

The choice of Muhammad bin Naif also underscores the fact that the Sudeiri princes retain the balance of power in the family and must have been instrumental in choosing one from that line.

As the Crown Prince Muqrin is 69 years old it is probably a good guess that Muhammad will not ascend the throne for a good 15 years or so. As a result it will be some time before the effects of this appointment will be seen.

In the meantime don’t expect much change.