In U.S. politics, we often hear the term “first hundred days” which is traditionally used to measure the success and accomplishments of a recently elected president during the time that their power and influence is at its greatest.
However, one could argue that King Salman, who ascended to the Saudi throne on January 23 following the demise of his brother the late King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, might have managed to redefine the whole above-mentioned concept and perhaps coin the term ‘first TEN days.’
Saudi Arabia is not without its faults. But many may not comprehend – especially if they are not from the Kingdom nor are experts on its history, society and politics – the significance of some of the landmark decrees issued by the newly inaugurated monarch.
Indeed, only a few hours into his reign, King Salman announced his confirmation of HRH Prince Muqrin as Crown Prince and appointed HRH Prince Mohammad bin Nayef (the Kingdom’s Interior Minister) as Deputy Crown Prince. By doing so, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques ended a long period of speculation and anticipation by firmly securing – once and for all - the line of succession and a smooth transition to a new generation of the Saudi royal family.
Only a few hours into his reign, King Salman announced his confirmation of HRH Prince Muqrin as Crown Prince and appointed HRH Prince Mohammad bin Nayef (the Kingdom’s Interior Minister) as Deputy Crown Prince.Faisal J. Abbas
Of course, many media outlets, including reputable Western ones, might have been too busy reporting on inaccurate or non-issues, such as the recent debacle over Michelle Obama not wearing a headscarf as she accompanied her husband, U.S. President Barack Obama, to pay condolences to the Saudi royal family in Riyadh.
Some media outlets even fell for an amateur hoax claiming that Saudi state television blurred out the images of Michelle Obama during the broadcast of the visit. (This led the Saudi Embassy in Washington DC to respond by tweeting a denial and recommending that media outlets use facts, not Facebook to source their stories!)
Report by Bloomberg View's Josh Rogin that Saudi TV "blurred" image of First Lady Michelle Obama is FALSE. Should check facts, not Facebook— Saudi Embassy (@SaudiEmbassyUSA) January 27, 2015
Of course, one has to accept that we – journalists – all make mistakes, and must always apologize and accept responsibility for them. However, would it have been really difficult for a U.S. journalist to simply Google images of female world leaders and officials who previously visited Saudi Arabia to find that many of them actually didn’t wear the headscarf?
It is unfortunate that in their search for sensationalism, many reporters miss out on important stories. For instance, very few media outlets actually noticed the public appearance of a number of Saudi women (many of whom chose not to wear their face-veil) to pledge allegiance to the King, the Crown Prince and the Deputy Crown Prince, shaking their hands and - in one instance - one of the king's nieces actually gave her uncle a peck live on Saudi state television.
In less than 10 days as well, the Saudi Monarch also oversaw the largest cabinet reshuffle in the history of Saudi Arabia; a change which brought in – for the first time - three ministers who are in their thirties. This is particularly significant when one notes that 60 percent of the Saudi population is below the age of 21.
Another interesting aspect of the new cabinet is that eight of its ministers came from the private sector, bringing in much needed corporate experience and best practices required to execute reforms and make quantum leaps in vital areas such as education, healthcare, information and agriculture.
Very few media outlets actually noticed the public appearance of a number of Saudi women (many of whom chose not to wear their face-veil) to pledge allegiance to King SalmanFaisal J. Abbas
Although much work still needs to be done, if these “first ten days” are to be used as an indicator of what is yet to come, they definitely lay down a path of fast-paced reforms, forward planning and strategic vision which the Kingdom requires.
Faisal J. Abbas is the Editor-in-Chief of Al Arabiya English, he is a renowned blogger and an award-winning journalist. Faisal covered the Middle East extensively working for Future Television of Lebanon and both Al-Hayat and Asharq Al-Awsat pan-Arab dailies. He blogs for The Huffington Post since 2008, and is a recipient of many media awards and a member of the British Society of Authors, National Union of Journalists, the John Adams Society as well as an associate member of the Cambridge Union Society. He can be reached on @FaisalJAbbas on Twitter.