THE appointment by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah of Prince Salman as his successor is a clear sign of continuity and stability for the Kingdom as it continues through a period of internal economic transformation in a region that has become deeply troubled with strife and terrorism. The speed of the crown prince’s appointment will have assured all in Saudi Arabia that the process of government will continue smoothly.
Crown Prince Salman is a leader of great experience, whose long tenure as the governor of Riyadh has given him deep insights, not only into the Kingdom’s governance, but because of his pivotal role in the life of the capital and in greeting the many world leaders who have visited it over the years, also into our international relations.
Crown Prince Salman has been characterized widely as “a pragmatist.” In that he has demonstrated time and again that he is someone who analyses a problem, sees what needs to be done and how it can be achieved and then sets about solving the challenge, this is indeed true. However, the crown prince is a devout man with deeply-held principles, which could never be compromised for expediency or pragmatic reasons.
When the crown prince last year laid aside the direction of Riyadh’s growth and prosperity, after 49 years as governor, he handed over a city of some 4.5 million souls, with modern infrastructure, a new purpose-built financial center nearing completion, a dazzling array of universities, technical colleges and training schools, a state-of-the-art mass-transit rail system under construction and a well-ordered network of suburbs, in which local communities have each been built up around the mosque, the school, often a cultural center and a local shopping mall.
When he took over the Defense Ministry last year, the crown prince immediately busied himself with mastering his new responsibilities, in the same methodical manner that he had overseen the administration of the capital. He made clear his commitment to sustaining the armed forces in a high state of readiness to defend the Kingdom against any outside threat. He also vowed to build upon the many years of work given by Prince Sultan, who as defense minister had built up the Saudi armed forces since 1962 to their current level of strength and efficiency.
The crown prince will continue to hold the defense brief but his new duties include the role of deputy prime minister, through which position he will have the important task of assisting King Abdullah in his rule and his care of the Two Holy Mosques.
The crown prince has traveled extensively and is renowned for his wide range of international political and diplomatic contacts. In the wake of the announcement of his appointment, there have been many comments from foreign diplomats and leaders reflecting on the crown prince’s considerable understanding of international affairs and his grasp of the problems that face the Arab world. It can be certain that because of the wide respect in which he is held, both for his intimate knowledge and the unostentatious manner in which he conducts his life, his advice will be closely sought and carefully listened to among the Kingdom’s friends and allies.
Prince Salman also has the unusual distinction among world leaders of having, in Prince Sultan bin Salman, a son who is an astronaut who has traveled on a US space shuttle mission and now heads the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities.
Saudi Arabia’s strategic importance, both geopolitically and as the world’s largest exporter of oil, means that the world has paid particular attention to Prince Salman’s appointment as King Abdullah’s heir apparent. The message sent out by his swift choice is one of continuing coherence and steadiness in the Kingdom’s dealings with the international community. The crown prince’s selection is however no less important to us here in Saudi Arabia, because it signals a continued steady progress on the economic front, the creation of more jobs for young people, together with an abiding commitment to security and prosperity and the values which underpin Saudi society.