Saudi king announces govt changes
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - Saudi Arabia's King Salman issued a wide-ranging overhaul of top government posts on Thursday, including naming a new foreign minister, following international fallout from the killing of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi nearly three months ago.
He also ordered a shake-up of the kingdom's supreme council that oversees matters related to security. The council is headed by the king's son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whose powers including roles as deputy prime minister and defense minister, were untouched in the overhaul.
It may also signal further efforts to show that changes are being made after the US Senate passed a resolution saying it believes the crown prince is to blame for Khashoggi's grisly murder inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
As the crown prince struggles to convince many in Washington and other Western capitals that he had nothing to do with Khashoggi's killing, the soft-spoken Adel al-Jubeir was replaced as foreign minister by Ibrahim al-Assaf, a longtime former finance minister. Jubeir was appointed to minister of state for foreign affairs at the Foreign Ministry.
Assaf is well known to international investors, having led several Saudi delegations to the World Economic Forum in Davos. He served as finance minister under King Fahd and King Abdullah.
The changes announced on Thursday include aides to the crown prince, including Musaed al-Aiban as national security adviser in addition to other positions he holds and former media minister Awwad al-Awwad as adviser to the royal court. Khalid al-Harbi was named as head of general security.
Turki al-Sheikh, a confidant of the crown prince, was removed as head of the Sports Authority and replaced by Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki al-Faisal. This means Sheikh no longer oversees a cybersecurity and programming body that was led by Saud al-Qahtani, a close aide to the crown prince who was fired from his post and sanctioned by the US Treasury Department for helping to mastermind the plot that led to Khashoggi's killing.
Khashoggi wrote critically of the crown prince in columns for The Washington Post before he was killed. After denying any knowledge of Khashoggi's death for weeks, Saudi authorities eventually settled on the explanation that he was killed in an operation masterminded by former advisers to Prince Mohammed. The kingdom denies the crown prince had any involvement.
Sheikh will now lead the General Entertainment Authority, a body created in recent years to help organize and promote concerts and other events that had long been banned in the conservative country.
Turki Shabbaneh, who has held positions in privately owned Saudi TV channels, was named minister of media. Hamad al-Sheikh, a royal court adviser and former college dean who studied in the US, was appointed minister of education.
The king's eldest son, Prince Sultan bin Salman, was removed as head of the tourism authority. He will lead a new national space agency.
Prince Abdullah bin Bandar was named head of the National Guard. Prince Abdullah had been deputy governor of Mecca.
"The reshuffle saw the appointment of some young princes, but also veteran statesmen to positions of power. There is an effort to balance the fast pace of reform with bolstering government procedures and institutions," said Mohammed Alyahya, a senior fellow at the Gulf Research Centre.