Photos: Bloomberg, Getty; photo illustration: Tom Hall/Bloomberg

Balance of Power: How to Read the Saudi Shakeup

Saudi watchers have long expected King Salman to find a way to install his 31-year-old son, Mohammed bin Salman, as his heir. Few expected it to come so soon.

Todays elevation of MBS, as the new crown prince is widely known, came at the expense of the Kings nephew, Muhammad bin Nayef. The 57-year-old was also stripped of his duties as interior minister.

MBS was already running oil policy, the economy and defense. To many, especially the young, he was seen as a harbinger of change in ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia. His high-octane approach to the Middle Easts problems has also meshed neatly with the agenda of President Donald Trump.

To others in the kingdom, however, his willingness to take risks looks more like recklessness; the domestic and foreign policy challenges MBS has taken on are piling up.

Theres his plan to diversify the economy away from oil, including selling shares in national energy giant Saudi Aramco. Then theres an increasingly fruitless war in Yemen, a hardening confrontation with Iran and, most recently, the decision to cut off neighboring Qatar.

Why now? Thats unclear. But if there was any doubt before, it looks like MBSs policies are here to stay.

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Salman in Riyadh this year.
Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

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