A political earthquake hits Saudi Arabia?

11 May 2015

The recent unexpected succession architecture decreed by King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud transfers the leadership of the country from the children of the country’s founder to a new generation of grandchildren, in particular Muhammad bin Salman and Muhammad bin Nayef.


In the early morning of Wednesday, 29 April, Saudi King Salman issued 25 royal decrees announcing major succession and other personnel changes that created shockwaves in Saudi Arabia and across the Arab world. These decrees were announced less than 100 days since he issued his first appointments after ascending to the throne in January of this year. Some commentators described the decrees as an “earthquake,” while others referred to them as a “soft coup.”

As the royal family focusses on potential internal dissension among the younger and more marginalised generation of royals, the Kingdom is simultaneously facing a myriad of domestic economic and social challenges, including growing poverty, high unemployment, inadequate education, human rights grievances and spreading radical ideology.

Regionally, Saudi Arabia is experiencing an acute sense of insecurity because of the Islamic State, Iran and the instability within its neighbours, especially Yemen, Iraq and Syria. How the Kingdom deals with these domestic and regional challenges will have a far-reaching impact on Gulf stability and on Western interests and personnel in the wider region.

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