Saudi Arabia Rewrites Succession as King Replaces Heir With Son, 31

BEIRUT — King Salman of Saudi Arabia promoted his 31-year-old son, Mohammed bin Salman, to be next in line to the throne Wednesday, further empowering an ambitious leader who has upended the ruling family at a time of deep Saudi involvement in conflicts across the Middle East.

The king’s decision to remove the previous crown prince, Mohammed bin Nayef, 57, capped more than two years of changes that have erased decades of royal custom and reordered the power structure inside the kingdom, a close US ally. And it came as Saudi Arabia was already grappling with low oil prices, and intensifying hostilities both with Iran and in its own circle of Sunni Arab states.

In sweeping aside Mohammed bin Nayef in favor of his son, the king marginalized a large cadre of older princes, many with foreign educations and decades of government experience that the younger prince lacks.


Mohammed bin Salman’s swift rise and growing influence had already rankled other princes who accused him of undermining Mohammed bin Nayef. But such complaints are likely to remain private in a ruling family that prizes stability above all else.

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“A lot of people are happy that a younger generation is coming to power, but those who are upset are the older generation, no doubt about it, who are not used to this kind of dramatic change,” said Joseph A. Kechichian, a senior fellow at the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies. “Even if people are uncomfortable, at the end of the day this is a monarchical decision, and people will either have to accept the new arrangement or they will essentially have to keep their mouths shut.”

His supporters praise him as working hard to fulfill a hopeful vision for the kingdom’s future. His critics fear that his inexperience has embroiled Saudi Arabia in costly problems .