28 December 2018

A royal decree on Wednesday demoted outgoing chief diplomat Adel al-Jubeir to the position of minister of state for foreign affairs and named former Finance Minister, Ibrahim al-Assaf as his replacement.  al-Assaf was detained during an anti-corruption purge in November 2017 that crown Prince Mohammed (in picture above) had engineered. He was released two months later, without penalty.  He returned to his roles as a board member at state oil giant Aramco and an adviser to King Salman. CNN reported.

Many Western diplomats believe that the reshuffle was to help the crown prince further consolidate his power as many of those promoted were his key allies. Prince Abdullah bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz was appointed as chief of the National Guard, replacing Prince Miteb bin Abdullah. General Khalid bin Qirar al-Harbi was named general security chief, while Musaed al-Aiban was appointed national security adviser. Turki al-Shabanah was appointed as the new information minister, replacing Awwad al-Awwad, who was named as an advisor to the royal court. Turki al-Sheikh, a close aide to the crown prince, was removed as the head of the sports commission and appointed entertainment authority chief, while Ahmed al-Khatib was named tourism authority chief.

The king also decreed the creation of a national space agency to be led by one of his other sons, Prince Sultan bin Salman, a former astronaut. Channel News Asia reported.

Turkey and Western intelligence agencies have hinted that King Salman’s son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, as the mastermind behind the Saudi journalist’s murder. The king left his son’s portfolios unchanged in the reshuffle. The Western intelligence agencies consider al-Jubeir to be another scapegoat in the journalist’s killing. Saudi consul general in Istanbul was very much involved in the killing of Khashoggi and that would fall under al-Jubeir.

The return of the only surviving full brother of King Salman, Prince Ahmed, to Saudi Arabia from London in late October has sparked speculation that disgruntled members of the Saudi royal family might seek to install Ahmed, the crown prince’s uncle as the king instead of the crown prince. Senior U.S. officials indicated they might back Prince Ahmed as king. Reuters reported last month.

Russia warned the U.S. against any interference in the royal succession in Saudi Arabia, while offering its support to Prince Mohammed bin Salman. President Vladimir Putin’s envoy to the Middle East said only Prince Mohammed has the right to inherit the throne after his father King Salman. Saudi and Russia are allies in the cartel for limiting oil production to support prices under the OPEC+ arrangement. MSN News reported.