The spreading conflict: Challenges to Iraq
At least there is a new team at the top of the Saudi Government which seems like it could potentially be much more progressive in responding to some of the critical issues facing the region, including Syria and Bahrain.
Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz al Saud, next in line to the Saudi throne, died in Switzerland following an illness on the 16th of June 2012. He had been Deputy Prime Minister and was the long-standing (since 1975) and hardline Interior Minister. Nayef was the most conservative of the leading Saudi princes, and with his son, Muhammad bin Nayef at his side as his deputy, spearheaded the country's post-September 11 crackdown on al-Qaeda.
Nayef’s younger brother, Prince Salman, became Crown Prince after being the Minister of Defence since the death of his full brother Sultan and the governor of Riyadh for nearly five decades.
Now, Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, former head of the Saudi intelligence and Governor of Madina and Hail and the youngest son of the kingdom's founder Abd al-Aziz bin Abd al-Rahman Al Saud, has been recently named the country's second deputy prime minister by King Abdullah. The announcement places Muqrin third in line to the throne and at the top of the kingdom's power structure.
Michael Stephens, an analyst at the Doha-based Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) think-tank, described the move as “buying time for the next generation" -- especially as the first Deputy Prime Minister and second in line to the throne, 77-year-old Prince Salman, is reported to be in ill health.
Stephens further noted that it is anticipated that Muqrin will “continue Abdullah's policy of slow and cautious change and ensure that his legacy as a moderniser is secure”.
With Prince Muqrin ascending to third-in-line to the throne and with competent second generation princes, Muhammad bin Nayef and Khalid bin Bandar, now in key decision-making positions as the Minister of Interior and Governor of Riyadh respectively, it is hoped that the wise King Abdullah has put into place a government strong enough to withstand the serious challenges which are currently buffeting both the region and the kingdom itself.
Many Iraqis used to blame Saudi Arabia and Qatar for their problems. Not so today. Today the Saudis are sending positive signals to the Iraq government and vice versa (an Iraqi delegation paid its respects in Riyadh on 16 February on the occasion of the death of Prince Sattam bin Abd al-Aziz.
Today, rightly or wrongly, Turkey and Qatar are viewed as the problem nations, though of course the suicide bombers are still largely young Saudis. “The Qataris are paying money for the Saudis to kill themselves,” one Iraqi told me.
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