On Sunday, Saudi King Salman promoted one increased one of his sons to the pivotal role of energy minister, increasing his family’s grip on the levers of powers from oil to finance and defense.
The appointment of Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman as the new energy minister reflects the rise of his half-brother Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler. Their younger brother Prince Khalid bin Salman is effectively in charge of the defense ministry.
Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 34-year-old known as MBS, has seemed almost Shakespearean. In 2017, he defeated 58-year-old cousin Prince Mohammed bin Nayef to become the ruler of the throne. Earlier, he was his deputy. Foreign diplomats have predicted that if he succeeds as king, the prince could well be in control of Saudi Arabia for at least half a century.
Prince Mohammed is also the kingdom’s defense minister and chairman of the vast Public Investment Fund. Several social reformations initiatives have been taken by him such as allowing women to drive and reopening cinemas.
At the same time, he evoked criticism for cracking down on dissent. Prince Mohammed has a close relationship with US President Donald Trump, especially with his son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner.
Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, the 59-year-old prince, is the first in the royal family to be named energy minister, a key post in the UAE. Being a veteran energy official, he has decades of experience working in the ministry.
He had also served as deputy oil minister and minister of state for energy affairs. “(He) has attended virtually every OPEC meeting since then (and) brings a wealth of institutional experience,” said Ali Shihabi, founder of the now-shuttered pro-Saudi think-tank Arabia Foundation.
Prince Khalid bin Salman was appointed as the deputy defense minister in February this year. Saudi officials said he is effectively in charge of the defense affairs. To improve arms imports, he said he will be supervising a multi-billion dollar effort. He is also a trained fighter pilot. Earlier he was the Saudi ambassador to Washington, a main ally of Riyadh.