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Despite the multiple crises currently swirling around Saudi Arabia, newly installed King Salman bin ‘Abd al-‘Aziz has spent the first few days on the throne consolidating power at home, announcing a sweeping cabinet change on 29 January, barely a week after the death of King ‘Abd Allah.
King Salman retained the long serving oil, finance and foreign ministers in a sign of continuity on key economic and foreign policy matters. But a surprise announcement, installing one of his younger sons, Prince Muhammad bin Salman, as defense minister within one hour of his late brother’s death has raised eyebrows.
The speed with which the new king acted came as a surprise to Saudi watchers used to a slower pace of change in the kingdom, more so during a period of national mourning. Yet the barrage of decrees — and the odd tweet — issued by the new king since 23 January suggest a sense of urgency by the 80-year-old monarch. His first two appointments, confirming Prince Muqrin as Crown Prince and Prince Muhammad bin Naif as Deputy Crown Prince, were designed to secure the line of succession, and leave no scope for internal squabbling among the younger princes. Subsequent appointments were designed to ensure that the Sudairi clan, of which he but not the former king is a member, remains a dominant force in the kingdom’s political life.
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