Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

The Saudi Minister of Defense | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The appointment of Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz as Minister of Defense for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was no surprise to many. Rather it could be said that it was almost a popular demand owing to the exceptional standing which Salman bin Abdulaziz enjoys amongst the Saudi people. This is thanks to the excellent reputation he has acquired as an effective administrative ruler and an accurate observer of internal affairs, and also because of his extensive social interaction with different categories of Saudi society.

Thus, choosing Prince Salman to assume the vital Minister of Defense position conveys a message of reassurance and stability to everyone. The post is now being held by a “prominent prince” who has a prestigious standing and commanding presence, and who is now taking up a position that befits his biography of successful accomplishments in several domains.

The Ministry of Defense, soon to be led by Salman bin Abdulaziz, will take on a new shape and nature, after its name was changed [from the Saudi Ministry of Defense and Aviation] and its department was restructured. He will come to the ministry with his strict and effective administrative style to manage a rising and growing military establishment, the role of which is intensifying in a country increasing in stature, lying in the midst of a region with ever changing conditions.

Prince Salman arrives at such a sensitive post with the legacy of his distinctive management approach, culture, acquaintance, and exceptional regional and international relations. All such significant attributes will undoubtedly be of assistance in his new position.

The role of the Saudi military sector is growing exceptionally as a major part of the administrative and service sector of the Saudi state. This is because it incorporates tens of thousands of military and civil affiliates in different sectors, whether in purely military occupations or in other specialties such as training, engineering, education, medicine, industry, housing and so on. These sectors are intertwined with other state-run projects and services, and are very often exemplary, as was the case with the armed forces’ medical sector.

The development and regulation of these sectors will be a top priority for the new Saudi Minister of Defense, who strongly believes in careful planning and long term visions. Yet rather than taking my word for it, there is no better proof of this than observing what has been applied on the ground in the Saudi capital [where Prince Salman was a former governor]. Riyadh has transformed over a few decades into an example of the successes of carefully studied urban planning of modern cities. It is no secret in Saudi Arabia that this is thanks to God and the efforts and views of Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz, who has long produced ideas and developed them by means of planning, implementation and tireless flow-up.

The man will impose his character on his new post, and will leave his imprint on the Ministry; from restructuring to rearranging posts, establishing priorities and developing relations.

It is certain that the ministry has ground to build upon, yet I believe that there will be some changes with regards to the administration mechanism and the objectives of the “new” ministry, so that it can cope with the country’s new priorities in relation to security, development and administrative challenges.

Apart from Saudi Arabia’s appointment of Prince Salman as Minister of Defense – an important announcement that goes beyond the mere declaration of office and will have long-term and significant dimensions – the government also reshuffled other state positions, such as appointing Prince Khaled bin Sultan as the Deputy Minister of Defense. I attended a private meeting comprised of only Prince Salman and Prince Khaled bin Sultan, and I noticed the level of agreement, appreciation and respect between them, something which in itself is reassuring for various reasons in the coming stage.

Likewise, the selection of Prince Sattam bin Abdulaziz as the new governor of Riyadh was a natural appointment, particularly as he has been active [in political life] for many years. Prince Sattam will be supported by his deputy Prince Mohamed bin Sa’ad, who has years of successful administrative experience in various posts. Other changes include the appointment of Prince Saud bin Naif as Chief of the Royal Court, a position with which he will bear the responsibility of aiding the Kingdom’s second-in-command.

Another appointment worthy of note is the designation of the “aviation” issue, formerly part of the Ministry of Defense, to Prince Fahd bin Abdullah, an aide to the former defence minister. Prince Fahd bin Abdullah is known for his integrity, efficiency, magnanimity, and the people’s love and respect for him. The issue of aviation and airports seems to be heading towards a new stage of administrative reform, privatization, follow-up and development, and now the time has come for all these issues to be discussed.

All of the appointments declared in Saudi Arabia come within the desired administrative development process. However, the selection of Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz as the Minister of Defense remains the most important piece of news, as it heralds promising indicators. Salman bin Abdulaziz has always been a voice defending the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its causes, and so it is no surprise that he now becomes the Minister of Defense.