Riyadh: King Salman of Saudi Arabia has ousted his nephew as crown prince and replaced him with his son, Mohammed bin Salman, confirming the 31-year-old as heir to the kingdom and consolidating his role as a powerful change agent.
The move was announced by royal decree just after midnight, stunning the Saudi establishment, which has seen Bin Salman’s profile soar over the past three years during a comprehensive reform programme.
The role of the former crown prince, Mohammed bin Nayef, a veteran security tsar, had however largely been seen as secure.
The upheaval follows a dizzying series of moves from the usually cautious kingdom, which in recent weeks has seen it recalibrate relations Washington and open a diplomatic offensive against Qatar, led by Bin Salman’s office, while pressing ahead with a war in Yemen and an ambitious economic and cultural overhaul at home.
Bin Salman has been central to the changes, which have helped his profile and powers grow rapidly under the tutelage of an 81-year-old monarch who has given him an almost free hand across most aspects of society.