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‘Trump factor’ seen in naming of new Saudi crown prince

Saudi King Salman made on Wednesday his favorite son and Deputy Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, Crown Prince, empowering the 31-year-old reformist as next in line to the throne in a move suggesting more hawkish Saudi foreign policy in regional conflicts, but not a rush into altering the Kingdom’s current oil policies and strategies.King Salman dismissed 57-year-old Prince bin Nayef by royal decree on Wednesday.In an unprecedented move, King Salman has amended the Saudi constitution, decreeing that only a son or grandson of a descendent of Faisal al-Saud, the first King and founder of the Saudi state, can be crowned King or Crown Prince of the Saudi monarchy.Omar Al-Ubaydli, an associate professor of economics at George Mason University and a senior fellow at the Bahrain Center for Strategic, International and Energy Studies, said the appointment erases uncertainty people had about the direction Saudi Arabia will take as it modernizes and looks to take a slice of its government-controlled oil company public.Bernard Haykel, professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton, said the king’s decision was aimed at avoiding a power struggle between his son and Mohammed bin Nayef by setting the line of succession out clearly.Saudi television channels showed the new crown prince kissing the hand of his cousin Mohammad Bin Nayef and kneeling in front of the older prince, who patted his shoulder to congratulate him.MBS’s plans require tearing up the social contract that’s kept the family in power since his grandfather, Ibn Saud, founded the kingdom in 1932. He has since amassed vast powers, serving as defense minister, overseeing the state oil monopoly and working to overhaul the Saudi economy in the face of a dramatic drop in oil prices. While the president pledged not to “lecture” other countries during a trip to the Gulf kingdom last month, some members of his foreign policy team have been more willing to criticize the Saudi regime.Erdogan and the crown prince also agreed “to increase the efforts to end the tension in the axis of Qatar”, during a telephone call, according to sources. But the abrupt shift comes as the Saudi kingdom faces hard economic and foreign policy challenges. “We shall work in order for the battle to be there inside Iran and not inside Saudi Arabia”, said bin Salman in a TV interview back in May.Mohammed bin Nayef was once a towering figure credited with crushing al-Qaida’s cells in Saudi Arabia.The seduction has paid off for now, with Trump’s apparent support of Saudi-led efforts to ostracise Qatar. The prince, who will remain the defense minister, has also been appointed as deputy prime minister.