Saudi Power Struggle Could Destabilize The Entire Middle East 

Source: OilPrice.com, by Cyril Widdershoven

Political instability in Saudi Arabia is growing as King Salman bin Abdulaziz begins to overhaul the Saudi government, putting a long list of family members into positions of influence while increasing the power of his son, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. These actions have the potential to lead to a direct conflict with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef. The expected internal power collision, predicted by many analysts, finally seems to be heating up. The real surprise, however, is that it is taking place while King Salman is still alive rather than during the succession period. King Salman’s royal decrees, in which he has appointed two of his other sons, Prince Abdulaziz and Prince Khaled as Minister of State for Energy Affairs and Ambassador to the United States respectively, has opened up Pandora’s box.

At the same time, King Salman has decided to re-establish all allowances and benefits which were canceled last September during the oil price bust. Additionally, the King has stated that two months of salary will be paid as an allowance to the military and security personnel fighting in Yemen. The latter is a complete reversal on economic measures taken in 2016 when Saudi Arabia was hard hit by the global slump in oil prices.

The power struggle in the coming months could emerge inside of King Salman’s palaces as the current government overhaul is a direct move to increase the influence of the Salman branch of the Al Saud family tree. During this time, media sources in Saudi Arabia and the GCC have indicated that King Salman’s decrees have moved several allies of his son, Mohammed bin Salman, into key positions. King Salman has also shown a keen interest, likely supported or instigated by Mohammed bin Salman, in strengthening relations with the United States. The appointment of Price Khaled as ambassador to Washington is convincing evidence of this suggestion.

The appointment of Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, half-brother of Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, as Minister of State for Energy Affairs is seen as very significant, as well. He will ease the overall burden on the Ministry of Energy, Industry, and Mineral Resources, Khalid Al Falih. Prince Abdulaziz will also be at the center of the Kingdom’s critical energy portfolio, including upstream oil and gas, renewables, and power generation.

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