5 Things You Should Know About Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince

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The world's youngest defense minister, Mohammed bin Salman, has become the poster boy for Saudi Arabia’s proxy wars in the Middle East.

This story was originally published on June 21, 2017 and republished following Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's purge of top officials, including Saudi Arabia's wealthiest prince and businessman, in an unprecedented power grab.

In a major shakeup of the Saudi monarchy, which largely took the world by surprise, King Salman ousted his nephew, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, as crown prince and installed his own son, Mohammed bin Salman, as heir to the throne.

 

Young as he is, Mohammed bin Salman, 31, is already head of the council leading Saudi Arabia's economic reforms, where he has been working on diversifying the kingdom's oil-dominated economy.

He is also the world’s youngest defense minister and, as such, has become the poster boy for Saudi Arabia’s proxy wars in the Middle East.

The young Saudi royal has also been attracting controversy worldwide for his role in Saudi aerial attacks on Yemen during the last two years, a proxy war with Iran for regional dominance, and also for maintaining a lavish international lifestyle while implementing austerity measures at home.

Iran immediately denounced bin Salman’s elevation, calling the move a “soft coup.”

Bin Salman has become a lightning rod in the battle between tradition and modernity in Saudi Arabia. While his economic reforms aim to modernize the economy and open Saudi society to innovation and entrepreneurship, at the same time he remains loyal to the country’s powerful Islamic clerics.

Saudi Arabia's highest religious body, the Council of Senior Scholars, immediately applauded his appointment as crown prince, the Saudi Press Agency stated on Wednesday.

Qatar crisis role

Three weeks ago, Saudi Arabia led the charge against its Gulf neighbor Qatar, implementing a severe boycott of the energy-rich nation, which it accused of supporting terrorism.

Bin Salman was reportedly instrumental in orchestrating the diplomatic rift with the Gulf state, which was joined by Saudi allies Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE, among others.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the 56-year-old crown prince of Abu Dhabi, joined bin Salman in leading the charge against Qatar. As a result, the duo cemented themselves as the new, young generation of leaders in the Middle East.

“They stand in contrast to previous Gulf Arab leaders who over decades weathered crises mostly by time-consuming conciliation,” reported Reuters. 

Their rival is also young: Qatar's ruling emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, took over from his father at 33 in 2013.

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