Sunday, February 3, 2013

Did the Saudi king move his son closer to the throne?

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has appointed his half-brother Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz, one of his special advisers, as second deputy prime minister, potentially placing him second in line to the throne. Muqrin, born in 1943, is a former air force officer who trained in Britain. Lateron he served as governor of the Hail and Medina regions of Saudi Arabia, before becoming chief of intelligence.
His appointment by royal decree comes amid speculation over succession in the world’s largest oil exporter where the king, who will turn 90 next year, has had recent operations, including back surgery in November.
Saudi's then intelligence chief Prince Muqrin bin Abdul-Aziz, brother of Saudi's King Abdullah, gestures during a news conference in Riyadh November 24, 2007. Foto:  Ali Jarekji / Reuters
Prince Muqrin
King Abdulaziz Al Saud. King Abdullah, who came to the throne in 2005, is the 13th son of the founder of the state, king Abdel-Aziz bin Saud. In June 2012 Abdullah named his defense minister and half-brother Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz, born in 1935, crown prince, making the traditionalist former governor of Riyadh next in line to become king.
The second deputy prime minister is usually next in line to become crown prince, pending approval by the Allegiance Council. This commission of appointed princes,was installed in 2007 by the king an got the power to select a new ruler and crown prince.
The appointment of Muqrin, who is King Abdulaziz's 35th and last son, gets special significance in light of the fact that Prince Salman, the number one in line for the throne, suffers from Altzheimer disease.
The Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar thinks that the appointment of Muqrin, who was earlier dismissed fro his post as intelligence chief because of his drinking habits and lack of competence, may indicate that King Abdullah wants to clear the path to the trone for his son Mutaib, currently the commander of the National Guard. The paper writes:
The famous Twitter activist @mujtahidd told Al-Akhbar, “Abdullah is seeking to put his son Mutaib on the throne. If he waits for the long line of Abdul-Aziz’s sons [to pass], then his son will never reach the throne. But the king wants his son to take the crown while he is still alive.”
@mujtahidd added, “Muqrin has two characteristics that allow the king to exploit him to get what he wants. First, he is the youngest and last son of Abdul-Aziz. Second, he is extremely weak-willed to the extent that he perceives his brothers as his masters, because his mother was a black slave.”
Concerning the timing of the announcement, @mujtahidd said, “Abdullah wanted to appoint him now because, in a while, it will become unequivocally clear that Salman’s Alzheimer’s will force his departure, after which Muqrin would be appointed as the crown prince. The king will then appoint his son Mutaib as his second deputy.”

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