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Saudi King Deposes Crown Prince And Names 31-Year-Old Son As New Heir

Mohammed bin Salman has risen from Saudi Arabia's deputy crown prince to the heir to the throne, according to a royal order backed by Saudi's Allegiance Council.
Simon Dawson
Bloomberg via Getty Images
Mohammed bin Salman has risen from Saudi Arabia's deputy crown prince to the heir to the throne, according to a royal order backed by Saudi's Allegiance Council.

Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has changed his pick for a successor, naming his son Prince Mohammed bin Salman as crown prince and deposing Prince Mohammed bin Nayef from the post. At 31, the country's new successor to the throne is 50 years younger than the current monarch.

Mohammed bin Nayef, 57, had served as crown prince since 2015, taking the post shortly after Salman, his uncle, was crowned. He also had been Saudi Arabia's interior minister — another job that will now be filled by Mohammed bin Salman.

According to the royal order making the change, the Saudi Allegiance Council overwhelmingly approved the new line of succession, by a vote of 31-3.

The abrupt shuffle has come as a surprise to many: When Mohammed bin Nayef became crown prince two years ago, he was the first member of his generation to rise to the top of the royal family. With his removal, Saudi Arabia is now on a path to be led by someone far younger.

The newest crown prince has amassed a number of responsibilities and powers, and while he's known for his economic and social ideas to modernize the kingdom, he also served as the Saudi defense minister during the kingdom's military intervention in Yemen.

"He symbolizes the hopes of a youthful local population, more than half of which is under 25," Gulf News reports. The site adds that because the king's son has acquired such a wide portfolio, diplomats nicknamed him "Mr. Everything."

A public pledge of allegiance to the new crown prince is scheduled for Wednesday evening; in a video that was posted shortly after the change was announced, the two princes are seen greeting each other and exchanging pleasantries.

"The shake-up in the Saudi line of succession comes as the kingdom and other Gulf Arab states continue a feud with Qatar that has seen borders close and trade shipments halted," NPR's Peter Kenyon reports for our Newscast unit. "The U.S. State Department appears to be losing patience with the Saudis and their allies, demanding that they reveal their list of grievances against Qatar."

Mohammed bin Salman has already met several world leaders. He visited President Trump at the White House in March and hosted U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May in Riyadh in April. In May, he visited Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow.

Of the new crown prince's personal life, Gulf News reports: "A law graduate from Riyadh's King Saud University, the dark-bearded prince with a receding hairline is the father of two boys and two girls and has married only once."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.

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