Sudairi influence returns to kingdom

08 February 2015

Sudairi branch influence grows as King Salman makes personnel changes

Following the announcement that King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud had been crowned monarch at the helm of Saudi Arabia’s seemingly new government, all eyes have been on the returning influence of the Sudairi branch of the ruling family.

The Sudairi branch is historically a powerful alliance of seven sons of King Abdulaziz al-Saud, named after their mother Hassa bint Ahmed al-Sudairi.

Instability in Yemen, a war in Syria and an ailing relationship with Iran means the new king has a lot to think about in the current environment of falling oil prices. The challenging period ahead, unsurprisingly, resulted in a cabinet shuffle in the kingdom in the first week of February.

While the reshuffle was expected as King Salman asserts his mandate, it does revive the power of the Sudairi branch of the Al-Saud family, which the monarch is a part of.

The intra-family alliance, famously dubbed the ‘Sudairi Seven’, seems to be making a return to the makeup of the kingdom’s government following the passing of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, who was not a Sudairi himself.

The return of the Sudairi influence is best illustrated though the appointment of the late Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz’s son, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, as the deputy crown prince.

In addition, King Salman’s son, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was appointed defence minister and head of the royal court. His appointment means Khalid al-Tuwaijri – a close adviser to the late King Abdullah and head of the royal court – has been removed from his position.

The changes extend earlier decisions made by King Salman including the appointment of Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz as crown prince.

There were also several key non-ministerial changes, with arguably the most controversial being the removal of two sons of the late King Abdullah from their posts as governors of the important provinces of Riyadh and Mecca.

In saying this, the house of Al-Saud has been clear in ensuring that, for the most part, it is business as usual regardless of the personnel changes. “We will remain with God’s strength attached to the straight path that this state has walked since its establishment,” King Salman said in a televised statement.

With several key posts left unchanged, including the foreign, finance and oil ministers, as the new monarch demonstrated a commitment to continuity, it is understood many economic aspects of Saudi Arabia’s plans for 2015 will continue.

However, it remains unclear whether the kingdom will change its stance on several increasingly complex external affairs such as the war in Syria and recent developments in neighbouring Yemen.

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