King Salman of Saudi Arabia ordered a major government reshuffle Thursday, replacing the ministers of foreign affairs and information, a royal decree said.
The shakeup comes as the kingdom grapples with international outrage over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a scandal that has tipped Riyadh into one of its worst international crises.
Ibrahim al-Assaf, a former finance minister, will replace Adel al-Jubeir as foreign minister, the decree said. Jubeir was demoted to minister of state for foreign affairs, it added.
#RoyalDecree | Ibrahim al-Assaf appointed as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Adel Al-Jubeir appointed as Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and a member of the Council of Ministers pic.twitter.com/G5WTVQQyJv
— Foreign Ministry ???????? (@KSAmofaEN) December 27, 2018
Turki al-Shabanah was appointed as the new minister of information, replacing Awwad al-Awwad — who was named as an advisor to the royal court.
Turki al-Sheikh, a close aide to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was removed as the head of the kingdom’s sports commission and named entertainment authority chief.
Why This Matters
The fallout over Khashoggi’s murder is widely seen as the kingdom’s worst diplomatic crisis since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, in which most of the hijackers were identified as Saudi nationals.
The critic’s killing has tainted the image of 33-year-old Prince Mohammed — the de facto ruler and heir apparent — even though the kingdom strongly denies he was involved.
“You cannot delink Khashoggi from any developments, though government reshuffles are customary every four years,” said Mohammed Alyahya, a senior fellow at the Gulf Research Centre.
“The reshuffle saw the appointment of some young princes, but also veteran statesmen to positions of power. There is an effort to balance the fast pace of reform with bolstering government procedures and institutions,” he said.
Saudi Arabia on Thursday said it was creating government bodies to boost oversight of its intelligence operations, in the wake of the journalist’s murder. But so far it has not threatened to unseat the prince, who has effectively neutered his political rivals and tightened his grip on military and security agencies.
After the reshuffle, Prince Mohammed is set to maintain his political and security posts, including that of defense minister.
More on the Subject
Khashoggi, who was murdered in October at his country’s Istanbul consulate, was named Time magazine’s “Person of the Year” earlier this month, an honor he shared with other targeted journalists recognized as “guardians” of the truth.
Among those named with Khashoggi were Philippine journalist Maria Ressa, Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo — currently imprisoned in Myanmar — and the workforce of the Capital Gazette in the U.S. city of Annapolis, including five staff members killed in a June shooting.