When Saudi Arabia’s King Salman announced the appointment of Prince Mohammed bin Salman as Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, very few people outside Saudi Arabia had heard of him. As presumptive heir to the throne, that announcement propelled him into international spotlight especially among Western nations as everyone sought to size up the young man who would someday become the ruler of the world’s largest oil-producing country. The age and health of his father King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud have meant he has become more or less the most powerful man in the kingdom.
Prince Bin Salman Was Appointed Crown Prince To Replace His Cousin
After King Salman ascended the throne, one of his first moves was to name his son Prince Bin Salman minister of defense and appoint his nephew Mohammed bin Nayef the crown prince. However, that didn’t last so long, as a royal decree removed the 57-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, replacing him with Prince Bin Salman who was previously the deputy crown prince. The former crown prince was also fired from his post as interior minister.
The series of decrees which preceded the reshuffle also included an amendment to Article V of the kingdom’s statute of ruling. The statute now stipulates that only the sons and grandsons of the founding King Faisal Al Saud can be kings and crown princes.
The decree further stated that King Salman’s decisions were endorsed by 31 out of 34 members of the Allegiance Council which is made up of senior members of the ruling Al Saud family. With this appointment, Prince Bin Salman assumed more responsibility in the day to day running of the Kingdom.
Leading a Reform To Modernize The Kingdom
While his father maintains the title of Prime Minister, and remains the reigning monarch, over the last few years it has become increasingly clear to international observers that the young prince is the one calling the shots.
In April 2016, he launched “Vision for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” popularly called Vision 2030; a plan to diversify the Saudi economy and wean her off its dependency on the oil economy. The plan seeks to create the world’s largest sovereign fund in his country. Part of this plan is to turn key cities into trade hubs and developing a non-hajj-based tourism industry. He has announced plans to build a sprawling entertainment city to offer cultural and sporting activities, a safari park, and other private sector-driven luxury initiatives, a departure from the Kingdoms more socially conservative policies.
Part of his plans to rejig the economy includes the partial privatization of Saudi Aramco, the state-owned oil company that has been crucial to the Kingdom’s oil wealth. He has set in motion plans to loosen restrictions that the religious laws have imposed on Saudi life.
He was responsible for the reduction of huge subsidies that residents received on gasoline, electricity, and water. He also added tax and VAT on luxury goods and sugary drinks. The reasoning behind his actions was to generate non-oil revenue of $100 billion a year by 2020.
In June 2018, he lifted the ban on female drivers and has committed to supporting more freedom for women. He altered laws that previously forbade females from travel without permission from a male relative in the kingdom. He has also curbed the activities of Saudi Arabia’s religious police by banning them from making random arrests.
Prince Bin Salman Wants To Reassert Saudi’s Influence In The Region
Under his watch, Saudi Arabia is becoming increasingly more assertive in the middle east, making decisive and sometimes controversial moves to checkmate what he regards as Iranian meddling in Sunni Muslim Arab states.
In 2015, he got involved in the Yemen crisis under the military tag Operation Decisive Storm, an effort to provide military assistance to the government of Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi in a war with Iran backed Shiʿi Houthi insurgents.
In a bid to gain an upper hand in the middle east cold war with the Iranians, Crown Prince Bin Salman has championed a blockade of Qatar who he sees as sympathetic to extremism and terrorism sponsored by Iran.
Criticism for Human Rights Violations
Under Prince Salman, there has been a crackdown on perceived opponents and other elements within the Kingdoms seen to be opposed to his agenda. Clerics, intellectuals, and journalists have been rounded up and locked away. More than 2000 people have been arrested for “misusing of their right to free speech”.
In November 2018, accusing fingers were pointed in the direction of the crown prince after a critic of the government Jamal Khashoggi was lured into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and butchered. Investigations revealed that most of the operatives that murdered Khashoggi were linked to the Crown Prince. Though he has denied involvement, the incident sparked public outrage.
Prince Bin Salman Has an Estimated Net Worth of $3 Billion
It is not surprising that the Crown Prince who is said to own the most expensive house in the world is very rich, even by Saudi royal standards.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has a personal wealth of over $3 billion. He put down $300 million to buy his awe-inspiring house in 2015. The lavish Chateau Louis XIV is a 54,000 square foot palace near Versailles.
He owns two luxury yachts. The first which he bought in 2014 and named Pegasus VIII was built by Royal Denship. She was at the time, one of the largest yachts in the world. Designed by Espen Oeino and Zuretti for the interior, some of the initial features were a helicopter pad, which can turn into a golf driving range, a large cinema, and a part deck with dance floor, barbeque, spa pool, and bars.
In 2015, Prince Mohammed bought Yuri Shefler’s yacht Serene as an addition to Pegasus VIII and in October 2016, the two yachts were spotted in Vlissingen, the Netherlands for what must have been a royal refitting.
He is said to have purchased the Salvator Mundi by Leonardo da Vinci for $450.3 million. Though official sources have denied this claim.
He Is Married To a Fellow Royal of The House of Saud
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman married Sara bint Mashoor bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in 2008. The two are cousins but the union is not unusual especially in the royal family where the preferred custom is to keep things within the family. She is also a member of the ruling faction of the House of Saud, descendants of Ibn Saud, the modern founder of Saudi Arabia.
The royal couple is blessed with four children; two boys and two girls. The two boys are named Prince Salman and Prince Mashhour while the girls are named Princess Fahda and Princess Nora.