King Salman of Saudi Arabia has announced a major cabinet reshuffle that puts in place a new generation to succeed him as head of the kingdom.
The new king has appointed his nephew, Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, as Crown Prince, replacing Prince Moqrin bin Abdul Aziz.
His son, Mohammed bin Salman, believed to be in his early 30s, has been made deputy crown prince.
King Salman, 78, came to the throne in January 2015 after the death of his half-brother Abdullah.
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King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, who was thought to be aged about 90, had been on the throne since 2005 and Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader for the 10 years before that.
King Salman has pushed aside allies of the late monarch such as his half-brother Moqrin bin Abdul Aziz, who was Crown Prince.
The rise of Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, 55, and Mohammed bin Salman means a new generation is now in line to lead the kingdom for the first time.
The appointment of Prince Mohammed bin Nayef is likely to be welcomed by the United States, with whom he has a close relationship.
The kingdom’s veteran security chief, he is known for his strong stance against Islamist militants and narrowly survived an assassination attempt by al-Qaeda in 2009.
The new deputy Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has enjoyed a meteoric rise within the Saudi leadership.
He was appointed defense minister in January, and in the last month has been overseeing the Saudi-led operation in Yemen.
In other appointments, the world’s longest-serving Foreign Minister Saud el Faysal – who has been in his job since 1975 – has been replaced by the Saudi ambassador to the US Adel Jubeir, who is not a member of the royal family.
King Salman has been pushing a more assertive, muscular foreign policy to push back against Saudi Arabia’s regional rival Iran with the new appointments reinforcing that trend.
With President Barack Obama secured for a second term, the Beltway is abuzz with chatter over who will end up where in his imminent cabinet reshuffle.
Sources are opining that the president is considering Senator John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) for the post of Secretary of Defense instead of Secretary of State, which has been thought to be the apple of the veteran senator’s eye.
Despite his deep-rooted longing for the post of chief diplomat, it is believed Barack Obama will select Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, to fill the expected vacancy left when current Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, could soon announce her departure from Obama’s administration.
Hillary Clinton has insisted that she will be a one-term Secretary, fueling rumors she has her eye on a presidential run in 2016.
Susan E. Rice, 47, has been part of the coterie of Barack Obama advisers since the early days of his campaign for president in 2007.
But she has been on the receiving end of much criticism since she is believed to have been the driving force being the Obama administration’s initial choice to label the recent attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, in which U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed, as a violent protest as opposed to a planned terrorist attack.
Despite the negativity over her alleged influence and claims by at least one Republican senator, Senator Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) that she would have an “incredibly difficult time” being confirmed as head of the State Department in the senate, Barack Obama is expected to stand firm in his support for her nomination, sources have told The Washington Post.
Susan E. Rice, 47, has been part of the coterie of Barack Obama advisers since the early days of his campaign for president in 2007
“I cannot imagine promoting anybody associated with Benghazi at this point,” the Republican said on CBS’ Face The Nation on Sunday.
But Susan E. Rice was a shoo-in during her confirmation hearings for her post at the UN back in 2009, impressing both Democrats and Republicans alike with her grasp of foreign policy and world affairs.
So with Susan Rice rumored to be Hillary Clinton’s heir apparent, the conjecture is now that John F. Kerry would be the top choice for Defense.
Current Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, who had previously served as the Director of the CIA, assumed the role at the Pentagon after Robert Gates stepped down in July 2011.
Leon Panetta himself has said he doesn’t think he would remain in the post during Barack Obama’s second term but in a moment of candor told reporters “who the hell knows?” when he was asked about his future.
“It’s no secret that at some point I’d like to get back to California,” he said on Monday.
The Monterey native moved to DC to serve as a Congressman from 1977 to 1993 and was served as President Bill Clinton’s White House Chief of Staff from 1994 to 1997.
He later served as Director of the Office of Management and Budget from 1993–1994.
And with the personnel changes expected to soon come down the pipeline, Leon Panetta could soon have his wish fulfilled.
Though John Kerry has been the top name floated as a replacement for Leon Panetta, sources told The Post that Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter and former undersecretary for policy at the Pentagon, Michele Flournoy, have also been mentioned as contenders.
John Kerry, who is Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, is expected to have earned a place among Barack Obama’s top brass – especially after his defense of the president’s national security record at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte in September.
Barack Obama’s appointments are expected to be announced any day now though his press secretary, Jay Carney, remained tight lipped on any potential changes in his first press briefing since Obama’s reelection on November 9.
The President will hold a full press conference this coming Wednesday, in the White House’s East Room, where the president will take questions from the press and possibly announce major changes to his cabinet.