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appointments, the world’s longest-serving Foreign Minister Saud el Faysal – who has been in his job since 1975 – has been replaced by the Saudi ambassador to the US Adel Jubeir, who is not a member of the royal family.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.
Saudi Arabia’s new king, Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, acceded to the throne on the death of his half-brother, King Abdullah, on January 23.
King Salman, 79, was governor of Riyadh province for 48 years before becoming defense minister in 2011 and crown prince a year later.
He had already taken on the duties of the king as Abdullah’s health faded.
King Salman is part of an influential faction within the royal family formed of sons and grandsons of the late King Abdulaziz (usually referred to as Ibn Saud) by a favorite wife, Princess Hassa al-Sudairi.
After the deaths of the former king, Fahd, who ruled from 1982 until 2005, and two previous crown princes, Sultan and Nayef, Salman was already the most powerful surviving member of this faction.
As governor of Riyadh, Salman oversaw its transformation from an isolated desert town into a crowded city of skyscrapers, universities and Western fast-food chains.
The post raised Salman’s international profile as he hosted visiting VIPs and envoys and helped secure foreign investment.
As defense minister Salman was head of the Saudi military as it joined the US and other Arab countries in air strikes in Syria in 2014 against the Islamic State militant group.
King Salman’s sons include:
Deputy Oil Minister Prince Abdulaziz
Prince Faisal, the governor of Medina
Prince Sultan, the head of the tourism authority and a former Royal Saudi Air Force pilot and astronaut.
King Salman is not believed to be as personally interested in political or social reform as his predecessor and his priority will be to maintain stability in Saudi Arabia.
Commentators have drawn attention to King Salman’s reputation as a mediator within the huge Saudi royal family, with its complex network of competing factions.
This task has become more fraught as the second tier of senior political posts in Saudi Arabia – the control of key ministries and governorships – has passed from the sons to grandsons of the late King Abdulaziz.
King Salman’s own Sudairi faction within the family, once a powerful and united group of seven full brothers, has itself developed internal rivalries as the sons of those brothers establish their own power bases.
The king’s health has also been a concern. He is reported to have suffered at least one stroke that has left him with limited movement in his left arm.
Correspondents say King Salman has appeared alert and well-briefed in recent meetings but, given his age, there are concerns about his stamina.
After becoming king, Salman announced that the new crown prince would be his half-brother Muqrin bin Abdulaziz, the youngest surviving son of the late King Abdulaziz.