Ties between Saudi and Donald Trump helped in naming of new Saudi crown prince

FILE- In this Saturday, May 20, 2017 file photo, U.S. President Donald Trump, right, shakes hands with Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman during a bilateral meeting, in Riyadh. Mohammed bin Salman was named crown prince in a sudden royal shake-up in Saudi Arabia early on Wednesday, June 21, 2017, but that is just the latest wild card in days of head-spinning developments in the typically staid Gulf, including the unexpected cutting off of nominal ally Qatar from the powerful Gulf Cooperation Council and Iran firing a missile into Syria for the first time, targeting Islamic State militants. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

Vastavam web: Closer ties between Saudi Arabia and US President Donald Trump’s administration helped pave the way for a succession shake-up making a 31-year-old prince the kingdom’s de facto ruler, analysts say.King Salman, 81, yesterday named his son Mohammed bin Salman crown prince and heir to the throne after firing Mohammed bin Nayef, whose counter-terrorism expertise had made him a favourite of previous American administrations.Mohammed bin Salman chipped away at his authority but Mohammed bin Nayef’s popularity with the previous US administration of Barack Obama had prevented his ouster, said Stephane Lacroix, associate professor at Sciences Po university in Paris.

Mohammed bin Salman was an early visitor to Washington, where he met Trump in March before the president last month made the first overseas trip of his presidency to Saudi Arabia.Trump received a royal welcome from Mohammed bin Salman and others.In a speech, the president urged Muslim leaders assembled in Riyadh from around the world to “drive out” extremists and “terrorists”.They accused Doha of supporting groups, including some backed by Iran, “that aim to destabilise the region”.

Trump has made statements siding with Saudi Arabia on the Qatar crisis.With his Trump connection established, Mohammed bin Salman “knew that the US wouldn’t mind him sidelining MBN,” Lacroix said, referring to the ex-crown prince by his initials. Frederic Wehrey, of the Middle East Program at Washington’s Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said “a lot of signalling” from Washington including a more activist regional foreign policy influenced the appointment of Mohammed bin Salman as crown prince.The Saudis were not “waiting for a nod from the (United) States” but the warming of relations played a role alongside domestic Saudi factors, he said.