It seems that Saudi Arabia has started to undergo the transformation various experts predicted. Those became obvious when the sitting king Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud replaced his deceased elder brother Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in January 2015, and made a number of quite unusual arrangements within the ruling elite, appointing the head of the Ministry of Interior Muhammad bin Nayef from Abdullah’s clan the Crown Prince, while his 33-year-old son Mohammad bin Salman Al Saudfrom the Sudairy clan received the appointment of Deputy Crown Prince. Even back then it was clear that within a short period of time the king would try to hand over all power in the country to his own son by sidestepping Muhammad bin Nayef, while he himself would retire due to Alzheimer’s disease, becoming sort of a “king-father” with no real power, but with the right to an advisory vote on important decisions. Needless to say, it’s a direct violation of the tradition of succession to the throne from brother to brother that has been in place in Saudi Arabia, that is going to be replaced by the father-to-son succession. To make such a transition one should be able to carry out a coup d’etat or win the approval of the succession board, which is formed according to different sources by 7 or 11 members of the Al Saud dynasty.
Now it seems that the wheels of the political machine are moving again. Last week reports from Riyadh indicated that his disease is taking a toll on the king and he wants to renounce his reign in favor of the Crown Prince. But then neighboring states, especially Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, started hinting that the members of the Saudi royal family along with the sheikhs of the strongest tribes, which are the foundation of Al Saud’s rule, are extremely dissatisfied with the sharp deterioration of the economic and social situation in the country, leading to a major drop in their personal incomes. It is no secret that Riyadh increased the volume of oil production to weaken the positions of its main competitors – Russia, Iran and Venezuela. But the kingdom had to take a punch as well, it was forced to unseal its reserve fund and cut the funding of numerous social programs.