The new king of Saudi Arabia, Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud, the half-brother of King Abdullah, who died in his early 90s from complications from pneumonia, is expected to rule with a more Wahhabist-oriented religious bent and concentrate on limiting cautious political reforms started by Abdullah. Salman is also expected to devote his energies to increasing Saudi national security.
Salman’s devotion to Saudi security is hypocritical at best due to his past support for Al Qaeda, including some of the individuals implicated in the 9/11 attack on the United States. It is Salman’s involvement with financing 9/11 and other terrorists that will likely reinforce the Obama administration’s refusal to declassify 28 missing pages from the 2002 Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the intelligence failures surrounding the attack. As the then-governor of Riyadh, Salman’s name likely appears as a “big fish” in the redacted 28 pages from the Senate report.
On the surface, Salman will not govern much differently than his predecessor in affairs of oil politics and national security. Salman will be assisted by his son, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the minister of defense and the chief of the royal court. Mohammed was the chief adviser to his father when Salman served as the governor of Riyadh province. Prince Mohammed became defense minister when his father acceded to the throne upon the death of Abdullah.
The other chief adviser to Salman will be Mohammed bin Nayef, the minister of the interior since 2012 and the current deputy crown prince and second deputy prime minister. Nayef, a nephew of King Salman, is second in line to the throne after Crown Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz al Saud. Muqrin was the head of the Saudi Mukhabarat al-A’amah, the Saudi intelligence agency, from 2005 to 2012.
In 2006, Saudi democratic opposition leaders in Britain fingered Salman, the then-governor of Riyadh province, as providing material assistance to Al Qaeda forces operating in Afghanistan before and after 9/11. The opposition revealed that Al Qaeda members routinely traveled through Riyadh on their way to Pakistan and then to Taliban-ruled regions of Afghanistan. These Saudi insiders also reported that Salman’s governor’s office arranged for cash payments, hotels, and air fares for the Al Qaeda members.
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