Saudi Arabia Current Affairs

Saudi Arabia: King names Son as new Crown Prince

Saudi Arabia’s king has appointed his son Mohammed bin Salman as crown prince and heir to the throne replacing his nephew, Mohammed bin Nayef. This also means that Prince Mohammed bin Salman will become the kingdom’s deputy prime minister while continuing as defence minister.

Significance

Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s appointment as the first in line to the throne is seen by the younger generation as a sign that things are changing in the kingdom. Before his appointment, Prince Salman was responsible for leading Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen.

Prince Salman who is only 31 years old could lead Saudi Arabia for decades which means the kingdom will have a long period of internal stability. However, at the same time Mohammed bin Salman’s closeness to US President Donald Trump could increase pressure against Iran, which has the potential to raise tensions in the region.

Background-Saudi Arabia’s Royal Succession

The founder of Saudi Arabia is King Abdulaziz. He had dozens of sons and there exists as many as 15,000 princes and princesses in the royal family. In 2006, the royal kingdom proclaimed a decree under which a committee responsible for electing the king and crown prince was set up. This committee is made up of senior princes of the royal family and is known as the Allegiance Council.

Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s appointment has received the approval of 31 out of 34 members of the council. In Saudi Arabia, those in power has the habit of promoting their sons to the roles which will improve their chances of being promoted.

Saudi Arabia is one of the most influential Arab country. It is the world’s leading oil producer and the Saudi Royal family is one of the richest ruling families in the world.

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Six Arab Nations Cut Diplomatic Ties with Qatar

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, Yemen, Libya and UAE have suspended their diplomatic ties with Qatar. All the six countries have announced that they would withdraw their diplomatic staff from Qatar and eject Qatar’s diplomats from their territories. They have also planned to cut air and sea traffic.

Reasons

Saudi Arabia has accused Qatar for embracing various terrorist and sectarian groups that are aimed at destabilizing the region such as the Muslim Brotherhood, al—Qaida, the Islamic State group and other groups supported by Iran.

Egypt has accused Qatar for supporting terrorist groups and taking an antagonist approach towards Egypt.

Bahrain has accused Qatar of media incitement, support for armed terrorist activities and funding linked to Iranian groups for its decision.

The decision has been taken after Qatar alleged that hackers took over state—run news agency’s website and published fake comments from its ruling emir about Iran and Israel. It had angered the Gulf Arab countries who responded by blocking Qatari—based media including Al—Jazeera.

Qatar has long been accused by its Arab neighbours over its support of Islamists. Qatar’s support for the Sunni Islamist political group Muslim Brotherhood which has been outlawed by both Saudi Arabia and the UAE made Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in 2014 to recall their ambassadors from Qatar. Only after eight months, the ties were normalised after Qatar forced some Brotherhood members to leave the country.

On May 27, Qatar’s emir, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani had called Iranian President Hasan Rouhani to congratulate him on his re-election. This has also angered the Sunni Saudi Arabia which also sees Iran as its No. 1 enemy and a threat to regional stability.

Qatar also remains as a key financial patron of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. It has allowed the stay of exiled Hamas official Khaled Mashaal in its territories since 2012.

Implications

Oil prices have seen a jump after the six countries announced suspension of diplomatic ties with Qatar as it affected some of the world’s biggest oil and gas exporters. Qatar, a gas rich nation is also the biggest supplier of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and a major seller of condensate (a low-density liquid fuel) and refining product derived from natural gas.

Qatar will be host to 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Saudi Arabia has announced that it would seal its land border with Qatar cutting off the country from the rest of the Arabian Peninsula.

Qatar is home to a major US military base, a sprawling al-Udeid Air Base, which is home to the US military’s Central Command hosting 10,000 troops. How this decision would affect American military operations is yet to be seen.

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