Saudi Arabia security agencies revamp sparks further intrigue

22 Jul 2017   Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz has overhauled the kingdom’s security agencies, further concentrating power in the hands of the king and his son, the youthful crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman. The move comes a few weeks after the king appointed his son crown prince, removing his nephew and longtime interior minister Mohammed bin Nayef. It hints at continued turmoil and intrigue in the House of Saud in the wake of reports that Mohammed bin Nayef has been kept under house arrest. A series of royal decrees on Thursday night announced the creation of a presidency of state security to be headed by veteran General Abdulaziz al-Howairini. The new agency, which includes units for special forces as well as counterterrorism and anti-terror financing, will be linked to the office of the prime minister, a position held by the king. The decrees, published by the official Saudi Press Agency, said these steps were taken “to cope with the new developments and confront all security challenges with the most needed flexibility”. The government said the changes are based on a May 2012 proposal by the late Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz. US intelligence and national security officials for long considered him, and later his son Mohammed Bin Nayef, as key partners in the war on terrorism. Mohammed Bin Nayef had been credited with crushing al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia after the militant group targeted the kingdom with a series of attacks between 2003 and 2006 that aimed to destabilise the country. Retaining Gen Howairini is probably intended to maintain some continuity, said Jane Kinninmont, a senior research fellow at Chatham House. “That may, in part, be a response to US concerns, but it may equally be intended to preserve expertise that the country itself will find useful in the fight against terrorism,” she said.

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