Nayef bin Abdulaziz, Saudi Arabia's interior minister, has been named the new crown prince of the key oil-producing nation, ascending at a time of regional turmoil amid the populist Arab Spring movement and simmering international issues involving Iran and other neighbors.
The news, following a royal decree signed by King Abdullah, was announced early Friday on state-run Saudi Television. The official Saudi Press Agency reported that the decree was issued the previous evening.
Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, the king's half-brother, died in a New York hospital on Saturday after being ill for some time. His funeral was held three days later in Riyadh.
As was the case with his predecessor, the move makes Nayef bin Abdulaziz the heir to the Saudi throne.
He will assume his new post at a tension-filled time in the Arab world.
The longtime leaders of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya have fallen in recent months during the so-called Arab Spring, while those in Yemen, Syria and elsewhere are holding on to power despite continuing popular unrest.
Violence remains a problem in neighboring Iraq, as well as Afghanistan. Iran, a longtime rival of the Saudi royal family's, is still at odds with much of the international community over its nuclear program, among other issues.
Before the announcement, Nayef had been considered a likely successor to his brother as crown prince. He was named in 2009 as second deputy prime minister, a post held by the second in line to the throne.
Nayef has served as the Saudi interior minister since 1975, having overseen the kingdom's counterterrorism efforts.
Saudi Arabia is one of the only countries that has truly dismantled a domestic al Qaeda network, said Christopher Boucek, a Saudi expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
"Nayef is widely seen as a hard-line conservative who, at best, is lukewarm to King Abdullah's reform initiatives," read a classified U.S. Embassy cable leaked by the website WikiLeaks.
In addition to his new title, Nayef will remain interior minister, according to Friday's announcement. The Saudi Press Agency noted that he also has been appointed deputy premier, meaning he will officially hold three positions in the Saudi government.
He and others met Thursday with a U.S. delegation that included Vice President Joe Biden, CIA Director David Petraeus and Sen. John McCain.
Ascension to the Saudi throne is kept within the royal family, though it does not pass from father to son. Instead, it's a complex process, and decisions in the conservative kingdom are often cloaked in secrecy.
Nayef's appointment follows the first-ever convening of the Allegiance Council, which the king established in 2006 to discuss and allow for more transparency on succession issues.
The king made his decision after receiving their input. Afterward, Abdullah instructed Nayef's fellow princes to pledge allegiance to him as the new crown prince.
How democratic! Where is the US to promote democracy? Oh yea they sent delegations to support the new King. And you Fareed, how come you are so nuanced with a tyranny like this one? You are so outspoken about Iran, even though Iran is 1000 times better? Unless you are part of the same gang that protect dictators when they are friend of the US but ask to bomb their country when they don't take orders from your friends.
Thank you for your nice article. There are many useful information.
Another fat slob waiting to become king and take orders from the right-wing thugs in Washington! How disgusting!!!
What year is it? Oh yeah....It's 2011. Take off those freaking towels already you freaking morons!!!!!!!!!!
I keep getting the impression that you do not like Muslims very well. Then again, Barack Obama detests them as shown by his foreign policies toward their countries. He may, of course, try to deny it but his actions speak much louder than his words!
"He and others met Thursday with a U.S. delegation that included Vice President Joe Biden, CIA Director David Petraeus and Sen. John McCain".
No doubt Prince Nayef wanted to strengthen the ties with the U.S.! I hope he wouldn't fall out with President Obama.
The Global Public Square is where you can make sense of the world every day with insights and explanations from CNN's Fareed Zakaria, leading journalists at CNN, and other international thinkers. Join GPS editor Jason Miks and get informed about global issues, exposed to unique stories, and engaged with diverse and original perspectives.
Every week we bring you in-depth interviews with world leaders, newsmakers and analysts who break down the world's toughest problems.
CNN U.S.: Sundays 10 a.m. & 1 p.m ET | CNN International: Find local times
Buy the GPS mug | Books| Transcripts | Audio
Connect on Facebook | Twitter | GPS@cnn.com
Buy past episodes on iTunes! | Download the audio podcast
Check out all of Fareed's Washington Post columns here:
Obama as a foreign policy president?
Why Snowden should stand trial in U.S.
Hillary Clinton's truly hard choice
China's trapped transition
Obama should rethink Syria strategy
Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.
RSS - Posts
Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.
Join 4,864 other followers