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Saudi king replaces crown prince with "radical reformer" son

Hassan Ammar / AP

King Salman of Saudi Arabia ordered a royal shakeup Wednesday when he appointed his 31-year-old son Mohammed bin Salman to be next in line to the throne, replacing the king's nephew, 57-year-old Mohammed bin Nayef, as crown prince.

Omar Al-Ubaydli, an affiliated senior scholar at George Mason's Mercatus Center, tells Axios the appointment will be welcomed by the country's foreign investors, because "it will diminish doubts that they may have held regarding the implementation" of the Saudi Vision 2030. That vision "seeks to decrease the country's dependence on oil, diversify its economy, and loosen some of the conservative, Islamic Kingdom's social restrictions," per NYT.

What's next: Al-Ubaydli also explains that the move may spark revolutionary changes as well, as Muhammad Bin Salman is considered a "radical reformer" by Saudi standards:

"This reshuffle increases the likelihood that revolutionary changes will truly be made, most importantly the empowerment of the private sector, and the commitment to the principle that the government's role in the economy should be restricted to oversight and macroscopic strategic planning."

The king's son has taken on a visible role in government in the months since his father ascended the throne in January. In his role as defense minister, a position he'll keep moving forward, Mohammed bin Salman has:

  • Led Saudi Vision 2030, which places greater emphasis on foreign engagement and development.
  • Overseen the Saudi-led military campaign against Yemen's Houthi rebels.
  • Has taken a hard-line on Iran, and accused them of trying to take over Islamic holy sites in Saudi Arabia.

Other leadership changes: The king also removed Prince Mohammed bin Nayef from his post as interior minister, and replaced him with a relatively unknown prince, Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Nayef. The king also recently named one of his other sons, Prince Khalid bin Salman, as ambassador to the U.S.