Brother of Saudi crown prince named deputy defence minister
RIYADH (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia appointed Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s full younger brother as deputy defence minister and named a princess as the kingdom’s first woman ambassador to the United States.
The elevation of Prince Khalid bin Salman, a son of the king, also further centralises power in one branch of the ruling family after the crown prince took control of most levers of power and policy in the world’s top oil exporter.
Prince Mohammed has been defence minister since 2015, when he intervened against Yemen’s Iranian-aligned Houthis in a war that has killed tens of thousands of civilians and pushed the impoverished country to the brink of famine.Prince Khalid, a former fighter pilot, had been ambassador to Washington for less than two years.
The new envoy, Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan, is the daughter of a former long-time ambassador to the United States.
She had a career in the private sector before joining the kingdom’s General Sports Authority where she championed women’s participation in sports and focussed on increasing women’s empowerment.
Princess Reema becomes ambassador as Saudi Arabia is opening up and granting women more freedoms, but also amid heightened tensions with Washington, a key security and economic partner.
Greg Gause, a Gulf expert at Texas A&M University, said Prince Khalid’s loss of credibility in Washington over the Khashoggi murder meant he could no longer be an effective ambassador.
“Appointing Princess Reema as his replacement is an excellent public relations move,” Greg Gause, a Gulf expert at Texas A&M University said. “A woman representing the country that just gave women the right to drive.”