On Wednesday, Saudi King Salman dramatically reshuffled the order of succession for the Saudi crown, booting his half-brother Muqrin from the role of crown prince and naming his nephew Mohammed bin Nayef al Saud as successor to the crown.
Nayef, 55, will likely take the reins of the Saudi empire in the coming years, being that King Salman is 79 and reportedly in poor health. Here’s what we know about the man who will soon lead one of the most contentious nations on the planet.
Born in the coastal city of Jeddah on the Red Sea in 1959, Nayef belongs to a generation of grandsons of Saudi Arabia’s founder, the late King Abdul-Aziz Al Saud. He studied in the US at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, though he never earned a degree.
Nayef also attended FBI security courses in the US from 1985 to 1988 and trained with anti-terrorism units in the London police force from 1992 to 1994.
In 1999 Nayef was appointed Saudi assistant interior minister for security affairs, where he is credited for the success of the Ministry’s counter-terrorism program. He was also regarded as the architect of the government’s counter-insurgency program.
In 2012 Nayef became minister of the interior, a rank he still holds today. He also holds ranks in the Supreme Economic Council of Saudi Arabia and chairs the Council for Political and Security Affairs. He is widely known as the Saudi counter-terrorism Czar after crushing an al-Qaeda uprising and has been the point man in Saudi military operations in Syria and more recently, Operation Decisive Storm in Yemen.
The new crown prince has also escaped four assassination attempts, including one by an al-Qaeda suicide bomber in 2009.
Nayef is regarded as friendly towards the US and other Western powers. In 2013 he met with President Barack Obama in Washington as well as British Prime Minister David Cameron to discuss security issues in the Middle East. In October 2010, he warned the US deputy national security adviser of a cargo plane bomb plot on a US aircraft bound for Yemen and has called for a “security channel” with the US to facilitate information exchange.
The Economist described Nayef as “energetic and low key” in a 2009 profile dubbing him “a rising but enigmatic prince.”
Nayef becomes the first among his generation to be elevated to such a high-ranking position — next in line to the throne. As crown prince, Nayef will continue to oversee the Saudi police and border guards and will also fulfil the role of deputy prime minister.
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