Saudi internal politics blamed for sacking of minister

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Khalid Bin Bandar Bin Abdul Aziz

Khalid Bin Bandar Bin Abdul Aziz

After only six weeks of being appointed as deputy defence minister of Saudi Arabia, Prince Khaled Bin Bandar Bin Abdul Aziz was sacked on Saturday because of what informed sources say was an internal politics in the ruling family.

He was the fourth deputy defence minister to be dismissed in a span of a year and a half. These four officials were removed from their job, the sources added, because of confrontation with the office of Prince Salman Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, the powerful Crown Prince and Defence Minster, as well as the First Deputy Prime minister.

The real reason, the source close to Saudi decision makers added, is related to the appointment by the crown prince of one of his sons, Prince Mohammad, as the head of the crown prince’s court.

Prince Mohammad, who is in his early thirties and has a degree in law, believes “that his job as a chief of crown prince court is not only to head the court, but also [have a role in the defence ministry] since his father holds the position of defence minister.”

While the four sacked deputies of the defence minister were “qualified and competent”, they had some “administrative conflicts” with Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, according to the source.

No official reason was given for the sacking of Prince Khaled. The Saudi official news agency SPA quoted a royal decree stating that the decision was taken at the request of the crown prince Salman Bin Abdul Aziz.

No successor was announced for Prince Khaled, who was named to the post on May 14.

The former Saudi defence minister, late Prince Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz, held his position for nearly six years without a deputy, Saudi sources noted.

Prince Khaled was the governor of the Riyadh region since February 2013. He is the son of Prince Bandar, one of the eldest surviving sons of King Abdul Aziz, the founder of the kingdom.

Prince Khalid was moved to the post of deputy defence minister in May when King Abdullah removed him from his position as governor of Riyadh Province and appointed his son, Prince Turki, in his place.

The dismissal of Prince Khaled came as the latest in a series of decisions taken by King Abdullah, who is over 90, in the past several months in what many analysts believe are aimed at consolidating the position of his allies in the family. However, the sources close to Saudi decision makers dismissed such an interpretations of the move, noting that King Abdullah “actually likes Prince Khaled”.

The most recent similar change was the appointment of Prince Muqrin, the youngest of founding King Abdul Aziz’s sons to survive into adulthood, as deputy crown prince, a newly created position that makes him next in line to rule after King Abdullah and Crown Prince Salman.

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