On April 29, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud made the jump in generation observers have been waiting for; the promotion of the Saudi Minister of Interior Prince Mohammad bin Nayef to crown prince. This elevation, just a few months after his appointment as deputy crown prince, is a testimony to the capabilities and capacities of the minister of interior.
King Salman decreed that it was time for Saudi Arabia to be ruled by the next generation of Al-Saud princes: Prince Mohammad bin Nayef is a Saudi royal of integrity and honor. He is also a fighter; the new crown prince has survived a number of assassination attempts, including one by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in 2009.
Crown Prince Mohammad bin Nayef is well known for his years of service in the Ministry of Interior, the development of the Saudi deradicalization program, including the establishment of the Mohammad bin Nayef Counseling and Care Center, and being in tough with foreign policy and security issues. He is held in high regard by world powers because of his handling of thousands of suspected or convicted terrorists as well as being pragmatic in approaching regional issues. His attitude is reflective of his approach to rehabilitation: “We try to transform each detainee from a young man who wants to die to a young man who wants to live.” With the current crises in the Middle East region, the crown prince is the right prince at the right time. In his mid-50s, he is likely to be highly influential for decades to come.
The crown prince is the perfect leader for the necessary political and social reforms that the kingdom needs desperately in the coming yearsDr. Theodore Karasik
The arena of Saudi-U.S. counterterrorism efforts is extremely significant. Led by the crown prince toward the Americans, the Saudi Ministry of Interior (MOI) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have a long history of working bilaterally and regionally to promote mutual security and economic prosperity. Both the MOI and DHS recognize that the development and promotion of these relations serves the joint interests of countries. That Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef is a frequent visitor to the United States for the sharing of intelligence and coordination of counterterrorism efforts is undeniable. That attitude, despite political differences between the two states on a spate of issues, is and will remain robust. National security is the nexus between Washington and Riyadh. According to an Arab official, Crown Prince Nayef is in constant contact with an assortment of regional security and intelligence officials.
Saudi decision making
Earlier this year, the now Crown Prince started as president of the new Council of Political and Security Affairs (CPSA). This nine-member council, under his presidency, is responsible for the kingdom’s security, both internally and externally, and they are assisted by a secretariat and have offices that help them in terms of policy analysis. For the crown prince, the CPSA shows a broadening of the scope of Saudi decision making so that there are more inputs instead of a decision made by one individual because of their particular interests or files. This fact is an important step in Saudi policymaking and helps to build synergy. Just last month, the Mohammad bin Nayef stated: “The noble mission and duties you are doing to serve the religion and the security of your homeland, require high security readiness and efficiency of performance, along with integrated coordination and cooperation between all security sectors to face the criminal act to maintain the security of the country, its citizens and expatriates.” That statement illustrates the full internal scope of Saudi security protection.
The crown prince is the perfect leader for the necessary political and social reforms that the kingdom needs desperately in the coming years. Saudi Arabia faces many challenges in many sectors, including health, labor, economy, energy, and knowledge management. King Salman is beginning to implement changes in personnel and regulation; that the crown prince works in tandem with the Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who is president of the Council of Economic and Development Affairs (CEDA), is a perfect match for keeping the kingdom in a forward-leaning direction. The appointment of highly educated technocrats is a case in point.
The crown prince is deeply interested in social services and cares for Saudi citizens. He encourages a regional and world view that helps to integrate the kingdom into the world economy by seeking high tech solutions and creating new labor conditions for Saudis. With millions of youth under the age of 25, King Salman and his crown prince are setting the stage for Saudi Arabia’s growth into the future. Future generations of Saudis will look back at this time as a poignant moment.
In both the domestic and foreign policy arenas, the crown prince is known for his conservative views. That’s an important requirement in today’s MENA region. The crown prince shares the view of helping shape Saudi policy on hot button issues—Yemen, Libya, and Syria to name a few—through decisive government policy and prohibiting Saudi citizens from becoming involved in regional, extremist conflict. Crown Prince Mohammad bin Nayef possesses a vision for the region where Saudi Arabia shapes the political and economic contours of ungovernable areas.
Finally, for Crown Prince Mohammad bin Nayef, Iran is of particular concern. Although His Highness visited Iran in 2001 as part of a delegation discussing cooperation in combating organized crime and terrorism, he may be deeply concerned about the integration of Iran into the world economy in exchange for what the Saudis see as a flawed deal as a result of the Lausanne negotiations. The Saudi leadership is unhappy with Tehran’s push into –and occupation of - Arab lands. Iran is seen as a logistical supporter to those against the kingdom and other Arab states. The interior minister, in his capacity as crown prince, is going to be very tough with Iran. If Iran changes its behavior, then maybe there can be a reconciliation between the kingdom and the Islamic Republic. However, there is a rough road ahead for the next 15 years if the Lausanne agreement is signed and accepted by all signatories. With an estimated one year breakout time to develop an Iranian nuclear weapon, the crown prince, when king, will need to make some tough and necessary decisions.
If the last two decades have been any indication, Crown Prince and Minister of Interior Mohammad bin Nayef, when he ascends to the throne, will uphold his position as Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques with extreme vigor.
Dr. Theodore Karasik is a Gulf-based analyst of regional geo-political affairs. He received his Ph.D in History from UCLA in Los Angeles, California in four fields: Middle East, Russia, Caucasus, and a specialized sub-field in Cultural Anthropology focusing on tribes and clans.