Succession process in Saudi Arabia
For 37 years, the late Prince Naif ran the Ministry of Interior, along with assuming the charge recently as the crown prince. Over these years, he gained extensive experience in state and security affairs, which made him a first-rate statesman and an international political figure, with worldwide political and personal relationships.
With the passing away of Prince Naif, many political analysts, especially Westerners, were talking about the succession process, wondering who would succeed him as the crown prince and minister of interior. Those concerns are valid for many reasons. Although oil is an important element that contributes to the geopolitical importance of Saudi Arabia, there are other equally important factors.
Saudi Arabia occupies the largest area of the Arabian Peninsula, and consequently, it is strategically important for countries bordering the GCC states. Hence, any political turbulence here would have an immediate effect on the adjoining countries that might complicate the management of their political affairs. This is also because of the imperialistic Iranian ambition and Tehran’s support for Houthi rebels in the southern border of Saudi Arabia as well as the presence of Al-Qaeda in various parts of Yemen.
Meanwhile, millions of Arab nationals form a large percentage of the workforce in Saudi Arabia. They come from several Arab countries and their departure due to any political instability here would directly have an impact on those countries — Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Sudan and others.
Those countries would be deprived of much needed foreign currency that they get in the form of remittances or direct state-financial assistance, consequently affecting their economies with possible social and political ramifications.
Moreover, Muslims (Arabs and non-Arabs) around the world are spiritually connected to the Two Holy Mosques in Makkah and Madinah, and as such, they are emotionally attached to Saudi Arabia. Their main concern is crowd management, security during Haj rituals, provision of other services and maintenance and expansion of the Holy Mosques.
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah made a wise decision by appointing two highly competent royals — Prince Salman as the crown prince, and Prince Ahmed as the minister of interior. This move demonstrated to the world that the succession process in Saudi Arabia is smooth and through consensus. It also attests to the Saudi leadership’s sensitivity to world affairs.
Prince Salman is a senior member of the House of Saud, and had been the governor of Riyadh region for 46 years. This region has distinguished characteristics that contribute to its vitality. It is the largest in terms of area and is politically important because of being the capital of Saudi Arabia. By virtue of being the governor of this important region, Prince Salman gained extensive experience in local government and international diplomacy.
The area is mostly desert that expands to include several cities and towns as well as multitude of tribal inhabitants. By remaining in charge of security and development of this region, Prince Salman came to know about the people of letters, families and tribal chiefs. He also gained valuable expertise on urban planning and development. Prince Salman established the Higher Commission for the Development of Riyadh, which is a government entity that worked to make the capital a cosmopolitan city.
World leaders, ambassadors and other foreign dignitaries had always interacted with Prince Salman because of him being a senior member of the royal family and the governor of the capital. As a result, he was able to establish political and personal relationships with those leaders and dignitaries, which he can rely on to deal with foreign issues as a crown prince.
Likewise, Prince Ahmed worked as the deputy governor of Makkah region — another vital region that hosts the Grand Mosque, which is the destination for millions of Muslims during Haj. He also served as deputy minister of the interior from 1975 to 2012. During this era, he dealt with the most sensitive and complicated issue — terrorism. Hence, his extensive experience includes local government, Haj crowd management and terrorism.
Moreover, Prince Ahmed’s foreign exposure started early on. He graduated from Redlands University, California, the United States. His international relations strengthened and expanded over the years when he became the deputy minister at the Ministry of Interior.
One may conclude that with the help of Almighty Allah, this country will continue to remain stable and progress for many years to come.
Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Zuhayyan is a Saudi academician based in Riyadh.
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