The New Generation of Saudi Princes

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The appointment of Prince Bandar to head Saudi foreign intelligence is an important step in the gradual but steady transfer of power from the first generation of Saudi princes (sons of Abdul-Aziz) to the second generation.

The old generation of Saudi princes clung to power for too long and never cared about qualifications or skills. Seniority was defined by age and loyalty (Badr and Talal were punished for their years of defection to Nasser’s regime by being denied a ministerial position, although both made a humiliating return to Saudi Arabia in 1964).

Some Saudi princes did not show any interest in power: Prince Muhammad agreed to step aside in the royal process of selection in the wake of King Faisal’s death, while Prince Khaled was an ascetic who devoted his life to religious devotion and falconry (he did not mind that Fahd ran the show under him).

If you look at the distribution of power in the kingdom today you realize that power has been already transferred to the second generation of princes.

Prince Saud al-Faisal is running the foreign ministry and his deputy (who is likely to succeed him) is Abdul-Aziz (the son of King Abdullah). Abdul-Aziz’s brother, Mutab, is the head of the National Guard (a post that his father held and it allowed him to be the chief leader of tribes in the kingdom — with his multiple marriages facilitating this role).

Muhammad, son of King Fahd, is (badly) running the Eastern Province (although there are loud demands for his ouster in Qatif and other places).

Prince Muhammad bin Nayif is running the interior ministry, despite the appointment of his uncle Ahmad as minister.

And Prince Khaled al-Faisal has the title of Emir of Mecca but he seems to be emerging as a key candidate for a much higher office soon.

It was Prince Nayef who was running the kingdom in the last two years as King Abdullah was increasingly incapacitated. But Prince Nayef is dead and Prince Salman may be too ill to assume any real powers. His sons may be undertaking the responsibilities of the job on his behalf.

This leaves the kingdom for the first time since it was founded in the hands of the second generation of princes. There is not a single first-generation prince who is slated to play a major role, or who is now exercising an important political role. Mutab and Abdul-Aziz run their father, while the sons of Salman run him.

There is a new era for Saudi Arabia but it does not promise to be any better (politically and socially) than the previous era. If anything, many of the new princes are more isolated from the public than their fathers.

The disputes among the second generation of princes are also very acute (similar to the discord in the House of Saud in the 1950s and early 1960s). The in-house conflict may open the window for real change in Saudi Arabia by bringing down one of the most repressive states in the world. The Saudi people deserve no less.


It’s a true fact that the old generation of Saudi princes clung to power for too long. The skills and qualification was not considered at that time. Saudi princes not interfere with the politics. Thank you very much for writing such an interesting article on this topic.

The Saudi Royal families claim to stewardship has always been opaque and debatable.
The Divine Right of Kings is a centuries old, and discredited notion. I fail to grasp how any of these families 'deserve' legitimacy, save for their hold on political and military power, and key government ministries.

Now a second generation has inherited the mantle of power, but does this enhance their claim to stewardship?

While the new generation may be more ruthless than some of their parents, they are more aware of the needs for changes, if they want to save their lives as Bandar has declared once on a US Public T.V. when he was Ambassador to the US: "If we lose, we don't lose votes , we lose our heads."

The other prince, Turki Al-Faisal, who is being groomed for a high position is as ruthless as his brother-in-law, Bandar, but cognizant of the implications of not changing. He was questioned about power sharing about 6 years ago and his response was: "within 10 years, all decisions in his family's kingdom will be made by elected assemblies.

The ruling family's first and foremost priority is to survive and control as a rule, but its younger members know neither survival nor control can be maintained in the same manner as the case now and has been for 80 years. They will be utterly stupid if they don't change the direction of the sinking ship. They are its main passengers.

Why are you and your buddy Ali al-Ahmed cavorting with the right-wingers and Neocons, Al-Ahmed even appearing on Pat Robertson's channel suggesting that he open an office in Saudi:

Why doesn't he call for opening a CBN office in Iran, Iraq, Qatif or your Ismaili areas in Najran? Why are you and Al-Ahmed using the Saudi school curriculum to incite the Zionist Neocons among others? Would you dare use Iranian or Hezbollah's "anti-Semitism" in this regard? Or are you like As'ad Abu Khalil who refers to Shaykh Nabil al-Awadhi series about the seerah as "Wahabi anti-Semitism", which means he is indirectly attacking Ali Ibn Abi Talib and Muhammad ibn Maslamah? I dare you, Al-Ahmed and Abu Khalil to attack Ali as an "anti-Semite". Al-Ahmed was exposed by Hafidh al-Mirazi of all people for his hypocrisy:

And please no hypocritical "mumanists" bringing up the treachery of the Saudi regime, which was opposed by it's own people, unlike the hypocritical sectarians of the Iran-Syria axis who use Saudi treachery in their propaganda while ignoring their own "thuwar Nato".

The billion dollar question which the writer has failed to dwell upon is why have the AlFaisal family sidelined all these years? Why is the question and Why is it that only the 7 Sudairi family are controlling power? The rift is there in the Saudi Royal Family. Right, the sons of another aging sick Prince Salman are controlling his affairs. But honestly, the Al Faisal family deserve all the attention to the power.

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