News / Middle East

    Saudi King Names Son to Run New Ministry

    King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia at opening of the Gulf Cooperation Council summit, Riyadh, May 10, 2011.King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia at opening of the Gulf Cooperation Council summit, Riyadh, May 10, 2011.
    x
    King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia at opening of the Gulf Cooperation Council summit, Riyadh, May 10, 2011.
    King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia at opening of the Gulf Cooperation Council summit, Riyadh, May 10, 2011.
    Reuters
    Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah named his son to head a new National Guard ministry on Monday, strengthening the force's role in the kingdom as the ruling family grapples with the transfer of power towards a younger generation.
     
    The elevation of Prince Miteb, which state media said came in a royal decree, has few strategic or military implications but bolsters his credentials within the ruling family.
     
    "With this ministry, Miteb will have a stronger role to play. It gives the national guard more authority, better structure and a larger institutional budget," said Abdulaziz al-Sager, head of the Gulf Research Center in Jeddah.
     
    The new ministry will be formed from the existing Presidency of the Saudi Arabian National Guard, based in Riyadh. Beside its military duties, the guard runs large social welfare and health programs for families of guardsmen.
     
    Saudi Arabia has appointed leading younger members of the ruling family to senior posts over the past 18 months, including the interior ministry and governorships of Riyadh and Eastern Province, two of the most important districts.
     
    King Abdullah turns 90 this year; Crown Prince Salman will be 77. The next generation of Saudi leaders, including Prince Miteb, are mostly in their 50s and 60s.
     
    In a country where top posts are often held for decades, the moves represent a changing of the guard for the inner circles of a family where major decisions are based on a consensus of views among senior princes.
     
    Unlike in European monarchies, the Saudi succession does not move from father to eldest son, but has instead passed down a line of brothers born to the kingdom's founder, King Abdulaziz, that include both King Abdullah and Crown Prince Salman.
     
    However, that line is nearly exhausted and the ruling al-Saud must soon work out which of King Abdulaziz's grandsons is best placed to one day become the monarch.
     
    Miteb's promotion also augments the special status of the national guard, commanded by King Abdullah from 1962-2010, as separate from the kingdom's conventional armed forces, run by Defense Minister Crown Prince Salman.
     
    Originally based on the tribal fighters who helped King Abdulaziz Ibn Saud create the modern Saudi state in the early 20th century, the national guard later helped guard against possible coups d'etat by the regular army.
     
    Although such coups are no longer seen as a risk, the force has retained an important role in both the Saudi military and as a link to the country's main tribes.
     
    According to a 2011 IHS Jane's Sentinel Country Risk Assessments estimate, the national guard has 100,000 personnel, compared to 75,000 for the regular army, 34,000 for the air force and 15,500 for the navy.

    You May Like

    US Watching as North Korea Opens Biggest Political Meeting in Decades

    As Workers' Party Congress opens, Washington anticipating possibility of another missile launch or nuclear test as top officials gather

    Video Pop Icon Prince Quietly Helped Afghan Orphans for Years

    He sent thousands of dollars to help an aid group rebuild a training center for orphan boy and girl scouts in Kabul, but kept his involvement secret

    Britain’s Muslims See London Mayor Race as Victory

    Mere running of 45-year-old former government minister and son of Pakistani immigrants Sadiq Khan seen by many as turning point

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labori
    X
    May 05, 2016 6:44 PM
    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labor

    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Troops Recount Firefight Which Killed US Navy SEAL

    A U.S. Navy SEAL killed Tuesday, when Islamic State fighters punched through Kurdish lines in northern Iraq, was part of a quick reaction force sent to extract other U.S. troops trapped by the surprise offensive. VOA's Kawa Omar spoke with Kurdish troops in the town of Telskuf -- the scene of what U.S. officials called a "dynamic firefight."
    Video

    Video British Lawmakers Warn EU Exit Talks Could Last A Decade

    Leaving the European Union would mean difficult negotiations that could take years to complete, according to a bipartisan group of British lawmakers. While the group did not recommend a vote either way, the lawmakers noted trade deals between the EU and non-EU states take between four and nine years on average. Henry Ridgwell reports on the mounting debate over whether Britain should stay or exit the EU as the June vote approaches.
    Video

    Video NASA Astronauts Train for Commercial Space Flights

    Since the last Shuttle flight in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russian rockets to launch fresh crews to the International Space Station. But that may change in the next few years. NASA and several private space companies are developing advanced capsules capable of taking humans into low orbit and beyond. As VOA's George Putic reports, astronauts are already training for commercial spacecraft in flight simulators.
    Video

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    The White House is expressing concern about rising political chaos in Iraq and the impact it could have on the fight against the Islamic State. The U.S. says Iraq needs a stable, central government to help push back the group. But some say Baghdad may not have a unified government any time soon. VOA's White House correspondent Mary Alice Salinas reports.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora