Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has issued a series of overnight decrees to overhaul the country’s security and intelligence apparatus, a move that could spark fresh concerns about the royal’s increased inclination to give more power to his son and the second to the throne Mohammed.
Saudi Arabia’s official news agency SPA said Thursday that King Salman had issued decrees for the creation of a new security agency, which will take almost all responsibilities on intelligence and counter-terrorism operations from the Interior Ministry.
The SPA said the new unit, entitled the Presidency of State Security, will be headed by intelligence chief General Abdel Aziz bin Mohammed al-Houeiriny and will be overseen directly by King Salman. That would also elevate Houeiriny, a senior Interior Ministry official, and his deputy to the rank of ministers.
The report said the aim of the new shake-up in the security system was to enable the Saudi government “to face all security challenges with a high degree of flexibility and readiness and the ability to move quickly to face any emergency.”
However, the abrupt changes seem to be in line with Salman’s previous policies of centralizing authority to himself and his 32-year-old son, who ascended to the position of crown prince last month after the king removed Prince Mohammed bin Nayef.
Reports over the past days have suggested that Nayef, who was also Saudi Arabia’s interior minister, was stripped of his positions against his will and under pressure. Many say the relatively rapid pace of changes in Saudi Arabia’s higher ranks are designed by Salman, now 81, to accelerate Mohammad’s accession to the throne. The crown prince is also Saudi Arabia’s defense minister, supervising a controversial military operation in Yemen.
The Thursday night shake-up in Saudi security system also elevated the head of Mohammed bin Salman’s personal office to the rank of minister.
As part of the decrees issued Thursday, king Salman also sacked the head of the royal guard, General Hamad al-Awhaly, and replaced him with General Suheil al-Mutiri. In an unrelated appointment, Mohammed bin Abdullah al-Qweiz became the head of the Saudi stock exchange.