Jun 19 2012
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WSJ: As Region Teeters, Saudi Arabia Sets Its New Ruling Hierarchy
Tuesday, Jun 19, 2012
By SUMMER SAID and IMAN DAWOUD
RIYADH-The Saudi king named his half-brother Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz as the country's new crown prince, placing him next in line to rule the oil-rich kingdom, in an expected move that is likely to ensure a smooth political transition amid political turmoil in the Mideast region.
The announcement by King Abdullah Abdulaziz al Saud , 88 years old, follows the death last week of Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz.
Prince Salman, who was the governor of Riyadh province from 1962 until he was appointed defense minister and deputy crown prince in November, has played an increasingly prominent role in Saudi politics in recent years. He is known to favor close political and economic ties with the West.
"Crown Prince Salman is obviously the correct choice based on Saudi succession….He is well known within Saudi Arabia, but also to international delegations," said Theodore Karasik, director of research at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis in Dubai.
The king appointed Deputy Interior Minister Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz to succeed Prince Nayef as interior minister, according to a royal decree.
The Saudi monarchy doesn't pass from father to son but rather along a line of brothers born to the former King Abdulaziz al Saud, also known as ibn Saud, who founded the modern kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1934.
Prince Salman, believed to be 76 or 77 years old, is one of more than a dozen surviving sons of Ibn Saud and is also one of the seven sons born to the former king's favorite wife, Hassa bint Ahmed al-Sudairi.
Those sons, the so-called "Sudairi seven," were regarded as a formidable power bloc within the ruling family and were given positions of high office as young men in the 1960s.
The former King Fahd was the eldest of the seven.
The new interior minister, Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, is also a full brother of Prince Salman and the youngest of the Sudairi brothers.
Prince Salman, as governor of Riyadh province, has been credited for turning the Saudi capital from a midsize town into an urban metropolis, attracting tourism, capital projects, and foreign investment.
The new crown prince also owns a newspaper group that includes the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat publication and the business newspaper al-Eqtisadiah.
Prince Salman visited Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other U.S. officials in Washington in April.
Analysts familiar with the kingdom's security forces said they expected no lessening of U.S.-Saudi counterterrorism cooperation.
Promotions following the appointment of Prince Salman will help signal who among the grandsons of the first Saudi king are considered future candidates for the most senior positions, including that of king.
"At the moment we're in an unusual situation with the death of two crown princes in the space of nine months," Mr. Karasik said. "We are on the cusp of moving to the second generation of princes and this will be played out in the coming months."
-Ellen Knickmeyer contributed to this article.
Write to Summer Said at email@example.com
Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Co.
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