Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and the kingdom’s de facto ruler for several years, has been named Prime Minister in a government shuffle announced Tuesday.
The crown prince, who served as deputy prime minister under King Salman, as well as defense minister, assumes a post traditionally held by the king.
This now puts him in line with the king’s previous delegation of duties, including representing the kingdom on foreign visits and chairing summits hosted by the kingdom, a Saudi official said.
His younger brother, Khalid bin Salman, who was deputy defense minister has replaced him as defense minister.
According to a royal decree from King Salman published by the official Saudi Press Agency, the heads of other critical ministries, including interior, foreign and energy, remain in place.
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince succeeds his ailing father as Prime Minister
Prince Mohammed, who turned thirty-seven last month, has been first in line to succeed his ailing father as king since 2017.
The kingdom of Saudi Arabia has for years sought to suppress speculation over the health of the 86-year-old King Salman who has ruled the world’s top oil exporter since 2015.
In 2017, it dismissed reports and mounting speculation that the King was planning to abdicate in favor of Prince Mohammed.
The King has been hospitalized twice this year, most recently for a one-week stay in May that involved tests, including a colonoscopy, according to state media.
Prince Mohammed as defense minister key step in his rise to power
In 2015, Prince Mohammed became defense minister, a key position and step in his swift consolidation of power.
As defense minister, he has overseen Saudi Arabia’s military activities in Yemen, where the kingdom leads a coalition backing the internationally recognized government in its fight against the Houthi rebels aligned with Iran.
He has also become the public face of a sweeping reform agenda known as Vision 2030.
Changes have included granting women the right to drive, opening cinemas, welcoming foreign tourists, defanging the religious police, and hosting pop stars and high-profile heavyweight boxing matches and other sporting events.
In a sweeping purge of the nation’s elite, he has also jailed critics as well as detained and threatened some two hundred princes and businessmen in Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton hotel in a 2017 anti-corruption crackdown that tightened his grip on power.
Prince Mohammed gained global disrepute for the 2018 killing of the dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate.
The hike in energy prices triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has prompted several Western leaders to travel to Saudi Arabia to appeal for ramped-up oil production, most notably Boris Johnson, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
President Biden himself, who swallowed an earlier vow to make the Saudi leadership a “pariah” also visited the kingdom.