Three months after he came to the throne following the death of his brother Abdullah, King Salman of Saudi Arabia today dismissed his half-brother Muqrin as Crown Prince and replaced him with his nephew, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, while his own son, Prince Mohammed bin Salman. King Salman thereby consolidates power in his own branch of the royal family while ensuring that the succession will move to the next generation after his own death.
Since the death of Saudi Arabia's founder, King Abdul-Aziz (Ibn Saud) in 1953, the crown has passed among his many sons (approximately 45). Among these sons, the so-called "Sudairi Seven", seven full brothers whose mother belonged to the Sudairi family, have been particularly powerful, yet they have not taken all power for themselves until now.
For instance, when King Khalid appointed the eldest of the Sudairi Seven, Fahd, Crown Prince, he also appointed a non-Sudairi, Abdullah, second deputy prime minister, i.e. effectively second in line to the throne. As King, Abdullah in turn appointed three Sudairis Crown Prince, first Sultan, who died in 2011, then Nayef, who died in 2012, and then Salman, who succeeded him in January. But Abdullah also appointed a non-Sudairi, his ally Muqrin, to the new post of Deputy Crown Prince in April last year, thereby apparently trying to uphold the balance between Sudairis and non-Sudairis. There was speculation that Salman upon his accession would remove Muqrin in favour of Prince Ahmed, another Sudairi, but Salman immediately confirmed Muqrin as the new Crown Prince, while appointing Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who is the son of the late Crown Prince Nayef and the son-in-law of the late Crown Prince Sultan, and thus so to speak twice a Sudairi, Deputy Crown Prince.
At the same time, King Salman appointed his own son, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Defence Minister and Lord Chamberlain, and by promoting him to Deputy Crown Prince today, King Salman has made the Sudairi branch almost all-powerful. The new Crown Prince also holds the important post of Interior Minister.
King Salman today also relieved Prince Saud bin Faisal of the post of Foreign Minister, which he has held since 1975, replacing him with Adel al-Jubeir, until now ambassador to the USA.
As things now stand, King Salman, who is born in 1935, will be succeeded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who is 55, and thereafter by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is believed to be in his early thirties, but Mohammed bin Nayef, who himself has no sons, may choose to appoint another heir when he becomes king. The influence of the Allegiance Council, which was set up by King Abdullah in 2007 to oversee the appointment of heirs, seems to be negligible.