Saturday, January 31, 2015

Saudi king makes new appointments to strengthen his hold on power

Saudi Arabia's new King Salman, who acceded to the Saudi throne about a week ago, on Thursday reshuffled his cabinet and changed the heads of intelligence and other agencies in a move that was clearly meant to strengthen his hold on power. Top officials from the Ports Authority, the National Anti-Corruption Commission and the conservative Islamic kingdom's religious police were also among those who were replaced.
King Salman
King Salman
Salman issued more than 30 decrees. In one of them he ordered "two months' basic salary to all Saudi government civil and military employees, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said. Students and pensioners got similar bonuses. "Dear people: You deserve more and whatever I do will not be able to give you what you deserve," the king said later on his official Twitter account. He asked his citizens to "not forget me in your prayers".
SPA said Salman relieved Prince Khalid bin Bandar bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud, Chief of General Intelligence, of his post, replacing him with general Khalid bin Ali bin Abdullah al-Humaidan. A separate decree said Prince Bandar bin Sultan, a nephew of Abdullah, was removed from his posts as Secretary General of the National Security Council and adviser to the king. Prince Bandar was the kingdom's ambassador to the United States for 22 years until 2005 before moving to Saudi Arabia's Security Council.
Two sons of the late monarch, king Abdullah,  were also fired: Prince Mishaal, governor of the Mecca region, and Prince Turki, who governed the capital Riyadh, according to the decrees broadcast on Saudi television. Another of Abdullah's sons, Prince Miteb, retained his position as minister in charge of the National Guard, a parallel army of around 200,000 men.
Salman, 79, a half-brother of Abdullah, named a 31-member cabinet whose new faces include the ministers for culture and information, social affairs, civil service, and communications and information technology, among others. However, Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi, Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, and Finance Minister Ibrahim al-Assaf stayed in the cabinet of the world's leading oil exporter.
Hours after Abdullah died on January 23 Salman appointed his son, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, as defence minister. Powerful Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef became second in line to the throne, while Deputy Crown Prince Moqren, 69, was elevated to king-in-waiting. Moqren would reign as the last son of the kingdom's founder, Abdul Aziz bin Saud, leaving Mohammed bin Nayef as the first of the "second generation," or grandsons of Abdul Aziz. The appointment of Prince Mohammed bin Nayef helps to solidify control by the new king's Sudayri branch of the royal family. Their influence had waned under King Abdullah.

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