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the power of a ruling monarch is
unchallenged while he is alive, but 
dies absolutely with him.
Karen Elliott House

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 .. ..
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman .. ..

Saudi Arabia detained two senior members of the royal family - Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, the younger brother of King Salman, and Mohammed bin Nayef, the king's nephew. The nephew was once the head of Saudi counterterrorism efforts, and had been crown prince until King Salman stripped him of the title in 2017 and appointed his son instead. The Wall Street Journal reported the detentions of the two royals on 06 March 2020, and said they related to an alleged coup attempt. Bloomberg also reported the detentions, quoting a source as saying that the pair were accused of "treason". Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman allegedly accused them of “conducting contacts with foreign powers, including the Americans and others, to carry out a coup d’etat” against King Salman and his son, Reuters, which has also picked up the news, added, citing own sources. The allegations of foreign involvement may be meant for domestic consumption in Saudi Arabia and nothing to do with international politics.

Mohammed bin Nayef's younger brother, Prince Nawaf bin Nayef, had also been detained, according to the New York Times. There was no immediate comment by Saudi authorities. Royals seeking to change the line of succession viewed Prince Ahmed, King Salman's only surviving full brother, as a possible choice who would have the support of family members, the security apparatus and some Western powers. MBS may have made some bad shots in international affairs, like starting the resource-draining war in Yemen or the diplomatic quarrel with Qatar, but he remained a very popular figure at home, so toppling him would have been a difficult task.

Al Jazeera's Jamal Elshayyal, commenting from Doha, said the detentions were of "huge" significance. "We are talking about two of the most senior members of the Saudi royal family," he said. "What's prompted it is very difficult to ascertain, needless to say, because Saudis have a closed culture in terms of transparency and no media freedom. "But these are two figures who have been under house arrest. They haven't been able to move freely for a very long time. The idea that they were trying to hatch some sort of coup is very far-fetched and difficult to see when considering the restraints they were under."

The sweep broadened the following day, the Journal later reported, to include dozens of interior ministry officials, senior army officers and others suspected of supporting a coup attempt. But Interior Minister Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Nayef and his father Prince Saud bin Nayef were released after being questioned by the royal court.

While Ahmed bin Abdulaziz had made it clear that he would not seek to take the throne, his open criticisms of MBS chafed the crown prince and rubbed him up in all the wrong ways. Due to his claim to the throne as the last surviving full son of King Abdulaziz after Salman himself, Ahmed would always be perceived as a threat by MBS and with his father’s age advancing and his health worsening, MBS is keen to ensure as few players are left standing to challenge him for the throne.

Reuters reported on 20 November 2018 that, citing anonymous sources close to the royal court, some members of the Saudi Royal Family had been campaigning against Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman becoming the next king. According to the news agency, dozens of princes and cousins from several branches of the royal family are considering putting Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, 76, a brother of King Salman, on the throne following the king's death. Ahmed served as deputy minister of interior of Saudi Arabia from 1975 to 2012 and briefly as minister of interior in 2012. Ahmed had operated in Nayif's shadow as Vice Minister of Interior - the youngest of the so-called "Sudayri Seven," his candidacy might provoke objections from those opposed to further concentrating that faction's power. He was one of only three people on the Allegiance Council, made up of the ruling family's senior members, who opposed MbS becoming crown prince in 2017.

The dissatisfaction with the crown prince within the Al Saud family was reportedly caused by the scandal around the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Riyadh blamed "rogue agents" for organising and executing the assassination of the journalist and denied any involvement of the royal family in the case. Dozens of princes and cousins from powerful branches of the Al Saud family want to see a change in the line of succession but would not act while King Salman - the crown prince’s 82-year-old father - is still alive, the sources said. They recognise that the king is unlikely to turn against his favourite son, known in the West as MbS.

Al-Watan Editor-in-chief Jamal Khashoggi in 2009 characterized Saudi Arabia as "a country in transition," facing many questions regarding its future. It was clear, he posited, that in ten years, there would be a new leader from the "new generation" of princes. What was so unsettling, he explained, was that "no one knows who this will be."

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.

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Page last modified: 10-03-2020 19:04:48 ZULU