Beirut: The Saudi monarch’s decision to replace the veteran deputy defence minister Prince Khalid Bin Sultan with Prince Fahd Bin Abdullah Bin Mohammad Bin Abdul Rahman did not indicate a possible change in the line of succession.
That mechanism was more or less secure after Defence Minister Prince Salman Bin Abdul Aziz was appointed Crown Prince on June 18, 2012, followed by the designation of Prince Muqrin Bin Abdul Aziz as the second deputy prime minister on February 1.
Speculation that the King reshuffled the decks was facile, especially as Prince Khalid was not considered a leading candidate to either post. Moreover, it was important to note that Prince Khalid was passed over for the job of Defence Minister in 2011 after the death of his father, then Crown Prince Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz.
Rather, and because of his very close work within the Saudi armed forces during and since the 1991 War for Kuwait, chances were excellent that the monarch was dissatisfied with specific military policies, on at least three counts: Prince Khalid’s record in the 2009 War with the Al Houthis along the Yemen borders that resulted in over 130 Saudi casualties, the recent Asian tour that probably involved additional defence purchases from China, and the decision to ink a multi-billion arms deal for 84 Boeing F-15s that Saudi Arabia purchased in 2010.
Various reports revealed that Prince Khalid’s leadership did not please the monarch over the long duration of the conflict as well as the large number of casualties in the Yemen crisis. Moreover, the king was also concerned that recent military purchases presented substantial expenditures, and may have caused the monarch to wonder whether such financial spending was warranted at a time when Saudi Arabia was anxious to meet domestic requirements.
Naturally, the government shuffle could have less sinister aspects, following recent major changes in senior positions, including the elevation of Prince Mohammad Bin Nayef to the critical position of Interior Minister, that of Prince Saud Bin Nayef as Eastern Province Governor, Prince Khalid Bin Bandar as Riyadh governor, and Prince Faisal Bin Salman as Governor of Madinah. By ordering such changes, the King affirmed his will to power, and introduced needed changes that he deemed where in the best interests of the country.