Saudi King Moves His Son One Step Closer to Throne

A picture taken on 4 December 2011 shows then Saudi intelligence chief Prince Muqrin bin Abdul-Aziz al-Saud attending the 'The Gulf and The Globe' security forum in Riyadh. (Photo: Fayez Nureldine - AFP)

Published Saturday, February 2, 2013

On Friday, 1 February 2013, Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz al-Saud appointed his 63-year-old brother Prince Muqrin, the 35th son of the kingdom’s founder King Abdul-Aziz, as second deputy prime minister. This makes Muqrin third in line for the throne after Crown Prince Salman bin Abdul-Aziz.

The top posts thus remain in the hands of the first generation, despite their old age and ill health. For instance, the king recently underwent several successive surgeries that left him weaker. Salman has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and at many times cannot remember his own name.

Meanwhile, Muqrin, the newcomer, is rumored to be a womanizer, frequently indulging in alcohol, which caused him to be sacked last year from his post as intelligence chief.

But the Saudi king’s move may be construed as an attempt to clear a path to the throne for his son Mutaib, currently the commander of the National Guard.

The famous Twitter activist @mujtahidd told Al-Akhbar, “Abdullah is seeking to put his son Mutaib on the throne. If he waits for the long line of Abdul-Aziz’s sons [to pass], then his son will never reach the throne. But the king wants his son to take the crown while he is still alive.”

@mujtahidd added, “Muqrin has two characteristics that allow the king to exploit him to get what he wants. First, he is the youngest and last son of Abdul-Aziz. Second, he is extremely weak-willed to the extent that he perceives his brothers as his masters, because his mother was a black slave.”

Concerning the timing of the announcement, @mujtahidd said, “Abdullah wanted to appoint him now because, in a while, it will become unequivocally clear that Salman’s Alzheimer’s will force his departure, after which Muqrin would be appointed as the crown prince. The king will then appoint his son Mutaib as his second deputy.”

The next step, according to @mujtahidd, would be for Muqrin to abdicate, following which Mutaib would be appointed as his successor. The Twitter activist went on to say that “Muqrin’s health makes this possible.”

@mujtahidd also mentioned that he was aware of some reactions to Abdullah’s decision, particularly from Prince Ahmed and Prince Turki (II) bin Abdul-Aziz. While “Prince Abdul-Rahman and Prince Talal are upset, naturally,” @mujtahidd said, “Ahmed and Turki are more important.”

He reckoned that “Ahmed is relatively active and healthy,” while “Turki has since recovered from his troubles in Egypt and regained some respect in the family.” @mujtahidd then predicted that Salman’s sons would side “with anyone distraught by these developments.”

In previous tweets, @mujtahidd describes Muqrin as an “unimportant man, both as the Governor of Ha’il and as head of the intelligence. He remained inconsequential after being sacked and there is nothing worth pointing out in his record.”

He also said that Muqrin “is often preoccupied with women and alcohol, and has completely delegated his functions to his chief of staff, which led to catastrophic intelligence failures in Egypt, Iraq, Iran, and even in simpler issues such as the case of Princess Sara Bint Talal, who sought asylum in Britain.”

In the issue of Princess Sara in particular, @mujtahidd wrote, it became clear that “Muqrin knew nothing about intelligence work, and was preoccupied instead with forbidden pleasures.” Muqrin, he added, “put his chief of staff [Abdul Aziz bin Saleh] al-Hawas, who was with him when he was governor [of Ha’il], in charge of his entire intelligence agency. He granted him full powers that exceeded even those of Abdul Aziz bin Bandar.”

Prince Muqrin is the youngest son of the founder king. His selection as second deputy follows a series of appointments made by the king, which propelled the second generation of princes to the forefront. For this reason, the king’s move came as a surprise.

Two weeks earlier, the king issued a round of decrees that dismissed a number of governors from their posts and appointed others. Thus, Prince Saud bin Nayef replaced Prince Mohammed bin Fahd, as the governor of the Eastern Province, reportedly as a result of the latter’s mishandling of the unrest there.

The king also appointed Prince Faisal bin Salman as the governor of Medina, relieving Prince Abdul-Aziz bin Majed bin Abdul-Aziz.

Muqrin was appointed as advisor to the king at the time – an honorary position. Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah was also appointed as Minister of State and Commander of the National Guard.

This had sparked widespread speculation that the move was an indication of the second generation finally being given sensitive ministerial posts. Interestingly, the appointments relieved Prince Mohammed bin Fahd from his post without being appointed to any other key position, which meant that the late King Fahd’s sons had been sidelined.

Prince Muqrin’s appointment as second deputy prime minister was announced in a brief statement by the official Saudi news agency. This is the third most important position in the hierarchy of power in the kingdom, after the king and crown prince.

(Al-Akhbar)

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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