Saudi Arabia's King Salman on Wednesday appointed his 31-year-old son Mohammed bin Salman as crown prince, placing him firmly as first-in-line to the throne and removing the country's counterterrorism czar and a figure well-known to Washington from the royal line of succession. In a series of royal decrees carried on the state-run Saudi Press Agency, the monarch stripped his nephew who had been positioned to inherit the throne, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, of his title as crown prince and from his powerful position as the country's interior minister overseeing security, the AP reports. The move surprised many within the royal family who are more senior and more experienced than Mohammed bin Salman.
The newly announced Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman already oversees a vast portfolio as defense minister and head of an economic council tasked with overhauling the country's economy. He had previously been second-in-line to the throne as deputy crown prince, though royal watchers had long suspected his rise to power under his father's reign might also accelerate his ascension to the throne. The royal decree issued Wednesday stated that "a majority" of senior royal members from the so-called Allegiance Council—a body made up of the sons and prominent grandsons of the founder of the Saudi state, the late King Abdul-Aziz—supported the recasting of the line of succession. (Read more King Salman stories.)