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It’s a Family Affair: Religion, Geopolitics and the Rise of Mohammed bin Salman

Over the past year, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has experienced a period of rapid transformation under the direction of a new Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, the son of the current King. Domestically, Bin Salman has overseen political reform in the upper echelons of the al-Saud ruling family, whilst embarking on a more pro-actively anti-Iranian foreign policy. This article looks at the actions of the new crown prince to explore the impact of Bin Salman’s influence on both the Kingdom and the Middle East more broadly.

It s a Family Affair Religion Geopolitics and the Rise
Appointment of Mohammad Salman as the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia

Introduction

 On November 4, 2017, the Lebanese Prime Minister, Saad Hariri resigned from office whilst in Riyadh, blaming Iranian manipulation of events. A day later, a number of prominent members of the al-Saud royal family were arrested, along with around 200 leading members of the country’s business elite. On November 6, the Saudis claim that a missile was launched from Yemen and intercepted near the Riyadh airport. Over 3 days, the severity of the challenges facing Saudi Arabia in the coming years became visible for all to see. In charge of responding to the challenges is the Kingdom’s new crown prince, the 32 year old Mohammed bin Salman, essentially the power behind the throne. Known by ‘Saudi watchers’ as MbS, the son of King Salman was appointed to the office of crown prince in June 2017 and wasted little time in seeking to transform the Kingdom’s fortunes. The office of crown prince is not without challenges, as four of the last five crown princes of Saudi Arabia have failed to become King. Yet few expect such a fate to befall MbS as a consequence of the moves made to secure his position.

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