Al Arabiya TV (as other Saudi media) report on the Cabinet shake-up and other measures being taken by King Salman as he settles into position. The article leads with the fact that government employees and retirees are getting bonus of two months’ salary as will students and the handicapped.

The article goes on to note that two of the former king’s sons have been removed from their positions; the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Higher Education are to be merged (under a new Minister); there’s a new head for the religious police, Minister of Islamic Affairs, and Minister of Information, among other changes.

Saudi King Salman issues major royal orders

Saudi Arabia’s newly inaugurated King Salman bin Abdulaziz has issued a series of landmark orders that ushered in fresh new faces into state institutions and awarded financial support for many Saudis.

And the king ordered a total of $30 billion (112 billion Saudi Riyals) spending in the oil rich kingdom.

The king ordered a lavish payout to all state employees on Thursday and reshuffled some top government jobs while keeping in place the oil, foreign, finance, defense and interior ministers.

The top oil exporter will pay two months bonus salary to all state employees and pension to retired government workers, he said in a series of decrees read aloud on state television a week after Salman succeeded his brother Abdullah as king.

January:30:2015 - 08:05 | Comments & Trackbacks (2) | Permalink

Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) has a lengthy piece in which he talks about Saudi succession and the issues facing the new king. Not surprisingly, those issues are the same as faced the former king.

Cordesman gently slaps those who were expecting some sort of crisis in succession. The Saudis have been doing this for some time now; they know how to do it.

He points out numerous areas of reform where progress must continue if the Kingdom is to meet its challenges. He sees no reason why it cannot do so. He sees no major shifts in foreign policy, alliances, or cooperation with other nations, particularly when it comes to fighting terrorism.

Saudi Arabia’s Smooth Succession: The King is Dead, Long Live the King
Anthony Cordesman

Once again, Saudi Arabia has managed its succession without problems, delay, or any signs of serious divisions within the royal family. One of its most competent and impressive kings has died, but the Crown Prince – Prince Salman – officially became king virtually at the time King Abdullah’s death was announced. Moreover, Prince Muqrin immediately became the full Crown Prince, ensuring that one of the youngest sons of Ibn Saud would become king or de facto ruler if Prince Salman became incapacitated or died.

Within less than 24 hours, the new King also announced a whole list of new appointments that gave the next generation of princes more power and helped prepare for the succession after Prince Muqrin:

January:27:2015 - 08:30 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Asharq Alawsat runs a Reuters article previewing Pres. Obama’s visit to Riyadh to offer condolences on the death of King Abdullah and to meet with the new Saudi king. The article is given a misleading headline, I think. While there are indeed Republicans included in the President’s party, it’s more of collection of super-wonks of foreign policy. National Security Advisors, Secretaries of State, and high-level advisors to the President are all on the plane.

The article suggests that issues such as Iran, Syria, Yemen, and oil prices are likely subjects of conversation. I’d think so. And I’d throw ISIS into the mix.

Obama includes Republicans in big delegation to meet new Saudi King

New Delhi, Reuters—President Barack Obama will fly a 30-member delegation, including top officials and respected Republican foreign policy veterans, to Riyadh on Tuesday to meet Saudi Arabia’s new King Salman Bin Abdulaziz as the crisis in neighboring Yemen continues to boil.

The hastily scheduled trip to pay respects following the death last week of King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz underscores a strengthening US-Saudi alliance that extends beyond oil interests to regional security.

Cutting short a three-day trip to India, Obama’s visit comes as Washington struggles with worsening strife in the Middle East and counts Saudi Arabia among its few steady partners in a campaign against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants who have seized swathes of Iraq and Syria.

Obama is slated to arrive in Riyadh at 3:25 pm local time (12:25 pm GMT), and will leave around four hours later.

Following Abdullah’s death last Friday, Obama will try to get relations off to a smooth start with Salman, who takes power after a period of sometimes tense relations between Washington and Riyadh.

Arab News reports on the President’s arrival:

Obama arrives in Kingdom to meet King Salman

January:27:2015 - 07:57 | Comments & Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Saudi media are full of encomia for the late King Abdullah. Articles and op-eds list and extol his virtues and the effects that he had on Saudi Arabia, its government, and society.

The articles, too, go to lengths noting the smooth transition of power to King Salman and the graceful way in which the successor generation is now in place to take over when the time comes. Part of this is to offer reassurance to the Saudi people; part is to thumb a nose at those expecting chaos. Part, of course, is hopeful thinking for the future.

From Asharq Alawsat:

The Saudi Succession

Opinion: Reassuring the People of Saudi Arabia

Opinion: The Passing of a Decisive King

Opinion: Saudi succession ensures stability

From Saudi Gazette:

‘Smooth transfer of power highlights Kingdom’s tradition’

Stability is the name of Saudi future

From Arab News:

King Abdullah remembered for his many achievements

Saudi Press Roundup

January:25:2015 - 08:38 | Comments & Trackbacks (4) | Permalink

Arab News offers a piece explaining who the new Deputy Crown Prince — second in line to the throne — Prince Muhammed bin Naif is. The article gives a gloss on his involvement with the government and the various jobs he has held, as well as his role in Saudi Arabia’s anti-terrorism efforts. It does not mention that he has survived four assassination attempts.

Prince Mohammed’s appointment as deputy crown prince welcomed

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman appointed Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Naif as the second-in-line to the throne, according to a royal decree issued Friday.

Prince Mohammed will be the deputy crown prince in addition to his present portfolio as the minister of interior.

Prince Mohammed bin Naif was born in Jeddah on Aug. 30, 1959. The prince is the son of the late Crown Prince Naif.

During his primary, preparatory and secondary education, Prince Muhammed studied at the Capital Institute in Riyadh. Then he studied in the United States during the university stage. In 1401, he obtained the BA degree in political science from Lewis and Clark faculty in Portland. He attended a number of advanced military courses related to anti-terrorism in the Kingdom and abroad.

January:24:2015 - 07:59 | Comments & Trackbacks (2) | Permalink

Al Arabiya TV provides a pictorial history of King Salman’s political engagement over the decades:

King Salman bin Abdulaziz’s path to the throne in pictures

January:24:2015 - 07:41 | Comments Off | Permalink

Al Arabiya TV reports that the public ceremony in which citizens, in various groups, pledge their allegiance to the new King and Crown Prince have taken place in Riyadh. This step assures the public that there are no difficulties with their accession and that they will be considered the legitimate ruler and successor.

Saudis pledge allegiance to new king, crown prince

New Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Crown Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz received pledges of allegiance from citizens on Friday evening, after the late King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz passed away in the early hours of the morning.

Saudi citizens flocked to Governance Palace in Riyadh to pledge their allegiance for King Salman and Crown Prince Muqrin.

After pledging his allegiance, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Asheikh said: “On this blessed day, we pledge allegiance to King Salman bin Abdul Aziz as the legitimate king, Prince Moqren bin Abdul Aziz as crown prince, Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz as deputy crown prince.”

International media are reporting that Pres. Obama is cutting short his visit to India in order to travel to Riyadh, where he will extend his condolences to the royal family. The gaffe of not sending anyone to Paris in the commemorative march following the Charlie-Hebdo tragedy, I think, was not to be repeated.

January:24:2015 - 07:28 | Comments Off | Permalink

Saudi Arabia’s new king, Salman, has made his first speech, pledging to follow the path of his predecessors. He also called for unity within the ranks of Islam, Asharq Alawsat reports.

The first changes in government have also been announced. The Royal Court sees several big changes, including the replacement of the Chief and Deputy Chief, and appoint his son, Mohammed, as Chief. He also named Mohammed as the new Minister of Defense. The new Chief will make further nominations for changes.

Mohammed Bin Naif has been named Deputy Crown Prince and Second Deputy Prime Minister. This is the first appointment of a grandson of the country’s founder to a position that put him in line for the throne.

King Salman calls for national unity, appoints new Crown and Deputy Crown Prince

Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—New Saudi King Salman Bin Abdulaziz has called for national unity and solidarity following the death of King Abdullah, moving quickly to appoint a new Crown Prince and Deputy Crown Prince. He pledged no change in the Kingdom’s direction, stressing that he will follow the “true approach” of his predecessors.

In his first speech as King, the new Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques said: “I am, God-willing, to carry out this great trust. We will continue, with God’s grace and strength, committed to the true approach which was followed by this state since its inception at the hands of the founder, King Abdulaziz, God’s mercy upon him, and at the hands of his sons after him, God’s mercy upon them.”

“The Arab and Islamic nation is in dire need today of unity and the maintenance of solidarity. We will continue in this country, that God has honored by choosing it as a platform for His message and as the direction Muslims must pray. Our march is to undertake everything possible to keep the unity of our ranks and the unity of word and in defense of our nation’s issues, guided by the teachings of our true Islamic religion which was favored by the Lord to us, the religion of peace, mercy and moderation,” he added.

The article reports that pledges of allegiance to the new king and his successors will take place tonight, following evening prayers in Riyadh.

January:23:2015 - 08:11 | Comments Off | Permalink

All Saudi media are reporting the death of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz and the ascension to the throne of Salman. Prince Muqrin has been named Crown Prince and Deputy Prime Minister.

King Abdullah is due to be buried later today.

Saudi King Abdullah passes away

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz has passed away, the Royal Court said in a statement early on Friday. Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz became king and Prince Muqrin was declared Crown Prince, another Royal Court statement said.

“With great sorrow and grief His Highness Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and all members of the family and the nation mourn the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, who passed away at exactly 1 a.m. this morning,” the Saudi Royal court statement said.

Funeral prayers will be held later in the day following afternoon prayers at Imam Turki Bin Abdullah Grand Mosque in the capital Riyadh.

Prince Salman declared Saudi Arabia’s king

Another statement said that Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud received the pledge of allegiance as the country’s king from members of the royal family. After that, Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz received the pledge of allegiance as Crown Prince.

Both King Salman and Crown Prince Muqrin will receive pledges of allegiance from citizens on Friday evening.

January:22:2015 - 19:34 | Comments & Trackbacks (7) | Permalink

Saudi Gazette reports that young Saudi women are not content to lead the kind of lives their mothers led. As a result, many are choosing to remain single into their 20s and 30s instead of being married and becoming mothers themselves in their teens. Not everyone is pleased.

Growing number of Saudi single women challenge tradition

JEDDAH — Amna Fatani knows she wants a brilliant career and a life different from that of Saudi women of her mother’s generation who married early, usually to a husband not of their own choosing.

The 27-year-old, studying for her master’s degree at Georgetown University in Washington and hoping to someday realize her ambitions, is part of a growing number of Saudi women choosing to remain single through their 20s and into their 30s as they pursue other ambitions.

The trend has ruffled conservatives who see it as an affront to the very foundations of the Kingdom, where rigid tribal codes have long dictated the terms of marriage.

“My friends and I have reached a point (where) we’re very specific about what we want,” she said. “I need someone who trusts that if I need to do something, I can make the decision to ask for help or choose to do it alone.”

Saudi women stand at the center of a societal pivot between the Kingdom’s push for greater women’s education and rights to work, and laws that give men final say over their lives.

January:22:2015 - 11:34 | Comments Off | Permalink

In an op-ed for Asharq Alawsat (here reprinted by Al Arabiya TV), Abdulrahman Al-Rashed points to Saudi Arabia’s long struggle with religious extremism (for certain values of “extreme”). He notes that just 17 years after the founding of the country, Saudi leaders had to resort to violence to put down a revolt by the Ikhwan, the tribal group that had militarily supported the cause of the Al-Saud, but which had now become a problem when it challenged the government over its policies.

From the Brotherhood of Sabilla to ISIS
Abdulrahman al-Rashed

The Islamic State of Syria and Iraq (ISIS), al-Nusra Front, al-Qaeda and similar groups are not really states the sense we understand. They are an idea of extremism that unites those who subscribe to it and those who support it in different forms, either with bullets, dollars, words or emotions. There are extremists who may be against taking up weapons, but they agree with violent groups on the ultimate idea and goal, even if they differ on the means to use.

Unlike what’s common in political analysis, extremism and extremists have always represented a threat to the Saudi Arabia. But this truth gets lost in a sea of accusations and the whole image is blurred even to the most well-informed people on the Middle East and Saudi Arabia in particular. This false historical understanding of the friend and the foe is no longer limited to foreigners and Arab propagandists. This false understanding has entered Saudi Arabia itself where some believe it and other extremists promote it. I think extremism is the biggest enemy and is the biggest threat to Saudi Arabia. This is why it’s in our interest to systematically, institutionally and continuously fight it.

January:22:2015 - 11:26 | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink

Al Arabiya TV runs a Reuters story about a report from the International Monetary Fund on the results of the crash in oil prices. Not only will oil-exporting states like Saudi Arabia be forced to run a deficit, it says, but gains by countries that might benefit from low energy prices will be limited by reduced global activity.

Oil export losses to reach $300 billion in Middle East

Losses from lower oil exports should sap up to $300 billion from economies in the Middle East and Central Asia this year, as countries in the region adjust to falling crude prices, the International Monetary Fund said on Wednesday.

Economies that are particularly dependent on oil exports, including Qatar, Iraq, Libya and Saudi Arabia, will be hit hardest by the more than 50 percent decline in petroleum prices, the IMF said in an update to its outlook for the Middle East and Central Asia.

Oil prices are now hovering near six-year lows amid expectations of an abundance of supply tied to unexpectedly high production of U.S. shale crude.

The IMF said, however, that falling crude prices will not translate immediately into major gains for oil importers in the Middle East and Central Asia, which have been hurt by the slowing growth prospects of key trading partners in the euro zone and Russia.

January:22:2015 - 11:19 | Comments & Trackbacks (1) | Permalink
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