As soon as he took the throne, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman Bin Abdulaziz took a historic decision regarding the Saudi succession, dispelling months, if not years, of Arab and international speculation and conjecture regarding the future of Saudi rule, and securing the transfer of power to the third generation of the House of Saud.
The appointment of Interior Minister Prince Muhammad Bin Naif as Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince is the first time that a grandson of the Kingdom’s founder, King Abdulaziz, has been placed in the Saudi line of succession. This historic decision, quickly made by King Salman after taking the throne, highlights the wisdom and assurance of Saudi Arabia’s new monarch. It sends a reassuring message to the people of Saudi Arabia, and the entire world, that the House of Saud is more than capable of wisely and judiciously governing its internal affairs.
King Salman’s first Royal Decree securing the Saudi line of succession is even more important when we consider that this decision was taken at a time when the sparks of successive Arab revolutions continue to burn, after the toppling of a number of robust regimes that few observers could ever have imagined would be ousted so quickly or easily. The people of Saudi Arabia were not isolated from this exciting Arab political mobilization; after all, the media, and particularly social media, is open to all. However, despite all this the Saudi ship continued to sail smoothly during the reign of late King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz, may he rest in peace, despite all the tensions and chaos that beset the Arab world. Some people speculated that the Saudi succession, on the death of King Abdullah, would witness disorder, but this has simply not happened. The general public support for King Salman and the new Saudi succession amply demonstrates that the people of Saudi Arabia not only support the new King’s decision regarding the appointment of the Crown Prince and Deputy Crown Prince, but that they also do not want or accept this dangerous path of revolt and revolution. Real reform and change can only take place in an organized manner, through an institution that possesses legitimacy; while we have seen such legitimacy and reform simply fall to the wayside in Syria, Yemen and Libya, and even Egypt and Tunisia.
I have no doubt that King Salman Bin Abdulaziz—whom I have had the honor of meeting and speaking frankly with on a number of occasions—represents a unique figure in Saudi Arabia’s leadership circles, particularly through his ability to accommodate and accept a diverse range of views and ideas. In fact, it is very difficult to characterize or stereotype King Salman, and this is a good thing that is very much needed at the present time, particularly as there are a number of hotly debated intellectual issues concerning the Kingdom these days.
We have seen increasing examples of religious heresy and takfirism in the Kingdom. I know that King Salman is always well aware of these complex ideological issues and is in constant contact with the Kingdom’s intellectuals, academics and elite to deal with them. His reign will, no doubt, witness a move to secure reconciliation between various competing ideological positions to safeguard the interests of the Saudi people. King Salman believes that cultural, ideological and intellectual diversity is good and reflects Saudi Arabia’s geographical diversity, with its deserts, mountains, oases, and valleys—complementing, not dominating, each other. Saudi Arabia is in need of this cultural, ideological and intellectual diversity to deal with the challenges facing the Kingdom, from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and its ideology to Yemen’s Houthis and Iran. While Saudi Arabia is facing these challenges, it benefits nobody to exclude others or exchange accusations of treason; we must all work together to safeguard the Kingdom.