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Saudi Leadership

Muhammad bin Saud17441765
Abdul Aziz bin Muhammad bin Saud17651803
Saud bin Abdul Aziz bin Muhammad al Saud18031814
Abdullah bin Saud18141818
Turki bin Abdullah18241834
Faisal bin Turki18341865
Abdul Rahman bin Faisal18891891
Abdul Aziz Bin Abdul Rahman Al-Saud19021932
The Kingdom
King Abdul Aziz Bin Abdul Rahman Al-Saud19321953
King Saud ibn Abdul Aziz Al Saud19531964
King Faisal ibn Abdul Aziz Al Saud19641975
King Khalid ibn Abdul Aziz Al Saud19751982
King Fahd ibn Abdul Aziz Al Saud 1982 2005
King Abdullah ibn Abdul Aziz Al Saud2005 2015
King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud 2015 ..
Crown Prince Muqrin .. ..
Deputy Crown Prince Muhammad .. ..
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef .. ..
Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman .. ..

Although the Saudi king is an absolute monarch in the sense that there are no formal, institutionalized checks on his authority, in practice his ability to rule effectively depends on his astuteness in creating and maintaining consensus within his very large, extended family. The king is the patriarch of the Al Saud, which, including all its collateral branches, numbered about 20,000 people. These persons traced their patrilineal descent to Muhammad ibn Saud, the eighteenth-century founder of the dynasty.

As one of world's last absolute monarchs, the Saudi Arabian king exercises very broad powers. He is both head of state and head of government. Ultimate authority in virtually every aspect of government rests with the king. All legislation is enacted either by royal decree or by ministerial decree, which has to be sanctioned by the king. In his capacity as prime minister, the king appoints all cabinet ministers, other senior government officials, and the governors of the provinces. In his capacity as commander in chief of the armed forces, the king appoints all military officers above the rank of lieutenant colonel. He also appoints all Saudi Arabia's ambassadors and other foreign envoys. All foreign diplomats in the country are accredited to the king. In addition, the king acts as the final court of appeal and had the power of pardon.

The legitimacy of the king's rule is based on the twin pillars of religion and the dynastic history of the Al Saud. The family's most important early ancestor, Muhammad ibn Saud (1710- 65), had been a relatively minor local ruler in Najd before establishing a political and family alliance with the puritanical Muslim preacher and reformer Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab (1703-87) in 1744. Muhammad ibn Saud and his descendants -- the Al Saud -- ardently supported the preacher and his descendants -- the Al ash Shaykh -- and were determined to introduce a purified Islam, which opponents called Wahhabism, throughout Arabia. Religious fervor facilitated the conquest of Najd and at the height of their power in the early nineteenth century, the Al Saud had extended their control over most of the Arabian Peninsula. Subsequent conflict with the Ottoman Empire and dynastic rivalries both diminished and enhanced the political fortunes of the Al Saud throughout the nineteenth century. Nevertheless, the Saudi alliance with the Al ash Shaykh endured. Through the political and military genius of King Abdul Aziz (Ibn Saud), the tribes of most of the Arabian Peninsula were eventually welded together to form a single nation within a Kingdom founded upon Islam.

The modern history of Arabia is often broken into three periods that follow the fortunes of the Al Saud. The first begins with the alliance between Muhammad ibn Saud and Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab and ends with the capture of Abd Allah. The second period extends from this point to the rise of the second Abd al Aziz ibn Saud, the founder of the modern state; the third consists of the establishment and present history of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

At Madina on October 27, 1986 (or 24 Safar 1407 AH in the Islamic calendar), King Fahd expressed the wish, in an official letter to Crown Prince Abdallah, that henceforth he be addressed only as 'Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques,' and no longer as 'Your Majesty' or any other secular title.

The Council of Ministers was established by King Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman Al-Saud in 1953. It consists of the King who is the Prime Minister, the Crown Prince who is Deputy Prime Minister, the Second Deputy Prime Minister and Cabinet ministers. Under the bylaws announced by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahd bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud in September 1993, the Council is responsible for drafting and overseeing the implementation of the internal, external, financial, economic, educational and defense policies, and general affairs of the state. The Council meets weekly and is presided over by the King or one of his deputies. On August 2, 1995, King Fahd issued a Royal Decree dissolving the Council of Ministers and announcing the names of Ministers in the new Cabinet under his chairmanship.

Prince Talal bin Abdalaziz, a perceived patriarch and well-respected, high-ranking member of the Al Saud family, is a royal family outsider long known for his expressing his maverick views publicly. Prince Talal bin Abdul Aziz held a meeting with key princes of the royal family's third generation in his Riyadh palace in August 2006. Notable attendees were his son Prince al-Waleed, one of the wealthiest businessmen in the Kingdom, Prince Khaled bin Sultan, Assistant Minister of Defense, Prince Muhammed bin Naif, Assistant Minister of Interior, Prince Mansur bin Mit'ib, who organized the 2005 municipal council partial elections, Prince Sultan bin Salman, Chairman of the Tourism Authority, and several other grandsons of King Abdul Aziz.

This meeting was reported as the first of its kind, since all previous family meetings were reportedly held under the authority of the Saudi Family Council, of which Prince Talal is a member. Prince Talal had been vocal in the past about encouraging the future leaders of Saudi Arabia to take greater responsibility and has pushed for the principle that any qualified son or grandson of King Abdul Aziz should be considered potentially eligible for the throne, in accordance with the Basic Law of the Kingdom.

A royal decree of 30 April 2015 removed Crown Prince Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz bin Saud as next in line to the throne and replaced him with Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, 55, who headed a crackdown on al-Qaeda in the country a decade earlier. "We have decided to respond to his highness and what he had expressed about his desire to be relieved from the position of crown prince," said a statement from the royal court, carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

The decree named "Prince Mohammed bin Nayef as crown prince" as well as deputy prime minister and said he would continue in his position of interior minister and head of the political and security council, a coordinating body.

A separate decree said King Salman's son, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who was in his early 30s, will be deputy crown prince. He retains his position of defence minister. The new deputy crown prince has played a key role in the Saudi-led coalition's aerial campaign in Yemen to try and stop the advance of Houthi fighters, backed by Iran.

Prince Talal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud strongly criticized the reshuffle announced by King Salman, arguing that the measure runs contrary to the principles of the oil-rich kingdom. In a statement on 01 May 2015, the 84-year-old Saudi prince termed the decision as "impulsive," demanding a meeting to exchange viewpoints over the issue. "I call for a general meeting that includes the sons of Abdulaziz (the founder of the Saudi kingdom) along with some of his grandsons, who are provided by the Allegiance Council," he said. "I previously said… No obedience… No allegiance to those who broke the laws," the Saudi prince stated.

Prince al-Waleed, son of Prince Talal, is considered by many Saudis to be inferior to other members of the royal family because his mother was non-tribal and of Lebanese descent. Additionally, it is rumored that the Saudi elite does not favor Prince al-Waleed because they find his "arrogance," as exemplified by his business dealings as owner of Kingdom Holdings, incompatible with the diplomatic skills needed to rule the Kingdom.

This marked the first time in the kingdom's history where a grandson of the founding king Abdulaziz al-Saud, ascended to the role of crown prince, and the changes represented a generational shift in power at the top. Khalil Jahshan, the executive director for the Arab Centre of Washington from Fairfax, Virginia, said that the reshuffle constitutes a "political earthquake of the greatest magnitude". Jahshan told Al Jazeera, adding: "These are serious changes that will have repercussions not only domestically but also internationally.... This is a very decisive answer by King Salman to the doubts that many experts have expressed since he came into power with regards to his health, his decisiveness and his control over political matters in the kingdom. And this is his unequivocal answer."

Saudi Arabia shook up its leadership — ensuring a clear line of succession with younger, more aggressive men hoping to expand the kingdom's regional power. The new Saudi leadership as it began to rise to the throne and make policy was more robust, vocal and full of action. The Saudis had typically conducted their foreign and security policy in a very quiet way, with back channels. This new, younger leadership was more forthcoming.

Theodore Karasik, Gulf-based analyst of regional geopolitical affairs said “Riyadh will be hitting harder and faster, working with allies and making trouble for its enemies. The point is that the new generation of Saudi leaders are more assertive and willing to voice their opinions, not just through voice but through action.” "There will be immediate consequences to such changes, the main one being that we will likely see a change in foreign policy that has more room for cooperative and coherent policies where in the past, there was a vast sharing of power on a large scale between the sons of the founding king," Mansour al-Marzouqi, a Saudi political researcher said. "Now, it is likely going to be between the two Mohammeds [bin Nayef and bin Salman]." With falling oil prices, a controversial military intervention in Yemen, and the devastating hajj tragedy last month, experts say many of Riyadh’s mounting troubles can be blamed on its aging king, and a power struggle brewing within the House of Saud. While King Salmon assumed the Saudi throne in early 2015, within only nine months ago questions were raised about the 79-year-old’s health. Preparing for the worst, two Saudi princes are already vying for the Kingdom’s highest position. The fact that both of these princes already held established positions in the government meant that the infighting was causing ripples through Saudi policy. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef is the king’s 56-year-old nephew, a Saudi interior minister, and next in line for the throne. Thirty-year-old Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is the king’s son, but also the head of the Saudi Defense Ministry. The younger Salman had been acting as if he was the heir apparent, so this obviously created tensions. The king’s son also had to ensure that he becomes indispensable, in the event that Nayef becomes king. The removal of Deputy Crown Prince Moqren had shown that the position is far from secure, and, without his father’s protection, bin Salman could see a similar fate.

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