Saudi Arabia’s interior minister stepped down after less than five months in the job, causing King Abdullah to appoint a top official to the kingdom’s key security post.
Newly named Interior Minister Mohammed bin Nayef was previously deputy minister for security affairs and is son of the late Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz, who died in June after serving as interior minister for three decades. Mohammed replaces Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, who took on the role after his brother Nayef died, the official Saudi Press Agency reported today. No reason was given for the change.
“New thinking and younger, more energetic leadership seem needed” for the security problems Saudi Arabia faces, said Paul Sullivan, an economics professor specializing in Middle East security at Georgetown University in Washington. “To have this tough and demanding job in Saudi Arabia would really need nearly 24-7 taking of the pulse of the country.”
Mohammed, who was born in 1959, was injured in August 2009 when a suicide bomber blew himself up at the prince’s office in the Red Sea coastal city of Jeddah. Islamic militants had begun a violent campaign against the country in 2003 in an effort to weaken the ruling family’s control of its oil reserves and to end ties with the U.S. Western nationals were targeted in the violence, which included kidnappings and bombings, until a crackdown by the Interior Ministry subdued the militants.
Mohammed’s father Nayef was a member the influential “Sudairi” brothers, sons of the founder of the kingdom. A law introduced in 1992 stipulates that the next king must be a son or grandson of King Abdulaziz Al Saud. Six kings have ruled Saudi Arabia since it was established in 1932.
Mohammed is the first from the younger generation to be appointed interior minister, one of the most powerful official positions in Saudi Arabia.
“This latest move would seem to increase the likelihood of the royal succession moving to the third generation earlier than many expected,” Jane Kinninmont, a senior research fellow for the Middle East and North Africa at Chatham House, a U.K. research institute, said in a phone interview.