Emirs, Ambassadors Take Pledge on Behalf of Crown Prince

In elevating his son Prince Mohammed to next in line to the throne, Saudi King Salman approved a strategic realignment with the US under Donald Trump and handed sweeping new powers to the 31-year-old who has been highly critical of regional rival Iran.

According to analysts briefed by Reuters, the move was expected, but the timing is surprising, and Mohammed bin Salman's rapid rise into power has created some discord within the royal family and has made Saudi policy more unpredictable than in previous years and decades.

Prince Mohammed, a son of the late Crown Prince Nayef who had served as interior minister since 1975 until his death from a heart attack in 2012, had been closely identified with the formidable and effective security structure built by his father.

The Saudi royal family are Sunni Muslim, and according to the Jerusalem Post, bin Salman also commented that the struggle for influence between the Sunni Muslim kingdom and the revolutionary Shi'ite theocracy ought to take place "inside Iran, not in Saudi Arabia".

What is more, the change ends uncertainty over succession.

The Associated Press reported in the early morning of Friday that Saudi Arabia and two other Gulf countries demand that Qatar cut ties with Iran and close Al-Jazeera TV channel.

Prince Mohammed already wielded huge power before he became heir, spearheading a sweeping economic and social reform programme for the ultraconservative kingdom. His radical proposals, outlined in a program labeled Vision 2030, aim to diversify the economy, with a bigger role for women and a partial privatizing of the Saudi state oil company.

Saudi Arabia's intervention in Yemen in March 2015 signalled a more aggressive foreign policy, emphasised again this month when the kingdom and its allies imposed an embargo on neighbouring Qatar. With Saudi Arabia the world's biggest crude exporter, Salman backed a policy that aimed to cripple USA shale drilling by driving down prices but created the current glut.

The decree also had bin Salman replace bin Nayef as deputy prime minister.

The prince, known as MBS, already oversees a vast portfolio as defense minister.

The Crown Prince further accompanied al-Bashir to Jeddah Airport as he ended his four-day to Saudi Arabia.

They accused Doha of supporting extremists, a charge it denies.

Mohammed bin Salman chipped away at his authority but Mohammed bin Nayef's popularity with the previous USA administration of Barack Obama had prevented his ouster, said Stephane Lacroix, associate professor at Sciences Po university in Paris. "Instead, we'll work so that the battle is for them in Iran".

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