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Ahmed Al Omran @ahmed
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[THREAD] Saudi King Salman ordered a sweeping reshuffle today, replacing several ministers and senior officials, and creating some new entities and structures. Our recap of these changes here: on.ft.com/2BMPpSa Some thoughts below:
First, on the timing: This reshuffle comes almost 4 years after King Salman ascended the throne and ordered his first major shake-up in Jan 2015. Four years is the normal term for ministers so a change was expected, but it also comes at a period of outside pressure post-Khashoggi
Assaf is an interesting but curious choice for foreign minister: He has often represented KSA at G20 and Davos meetings, but his strength is long experience in government as he led the finance ministry for almost 20 years under 3 different kings
Saudi sources suggest Assaf is expected to restructure and develop the foreign ministry while Adel al-Jubeir is set to continue his role as a top diplomat for the kingdom. He remains a member of the cabinet and the Council of Political and Security Affairs, i.e. not sidelined
Musaad al-Aiban is another veteran worth highlighting in this reshuffle: a trusted aide who is said to have the ears of both the crown prince, he was named national security adviser, a position that remained vacant since Prince Bandar bin Sultan was removed in 2015
Aiban has served for many years in the royal court where he handled many national security and foreign affairs issues, including Yemen. He is a Harvard law graduated his father was Saudi Arabia’s first intelligence chief
Another important change that didn’t get much attention in the flurry of royal decrees today is this: the king ordered the creation of a “Court of the Council of Ministers” that would operate separately from the royal court
The move suggests that King Salman wants to create a clearer division between the cabinet and the royal court, which had become increasingly blurred since the late King Abdullah in effect merged the two in 2011
Speaking of the cabinet, the king replaced the ministers of education, media and national guard, but the majority of ministers kept their posts. Former edu minister Ahmed al-Eisa is now in charge of the Public Education Evaluation Commission
The oddly-named media ministry (previously known as information ministry) gets a new minister: Turki al-Shabana, a former executive at privately-owned Rotana network. Former media minister Awwad al-Awwad is appointed adviser to the royal court
Prince Abdullah bin Bandar named minister of national guard after two years as deputy governor of Mecca where he was involved with hajj organisation. He is said to be close to the crown prince and worked in his office at Riyadh governorate
The king appointed several other young princes as advisers in the royal court and new governors for the regions of Jouf and Assir, reflecting a desire to inject fresh blood from the royal family in multiple positions across the government
Other notable changes: King Salman ordered the creation of a new Saudi space agency. Prince Sultan bin Salman, king’s son and former astronaut, appointed to lead it after he spent many years running the kingdom’s tourism commission
Ahmed al-Khatib will replace Prince Sultan in charge of the tourism agency. Khatib is a close adviser to the crown prince and the chairman of Saudi Arabia Military Industries Corp. He also ran the entertainment authority before that and served briefly as health minister
Turki al-Alsheikh, another member of the crown prince’s inner circle, appointed entertainment authority chief. Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki al-Faisal will replace him in charge of the General Sports Authority
Last but not least, Iman al-Mutairi is named assistant minister of commerce and investment, making her one of the few top female officials in the government
One more thing: A royal decree relieved Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf from his post as Saudi ambassador to the UK, but no replacement has been named. We will probably see more appointments in the diplomatic corps soon. /End of thread
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