Saudi King Reshuffles Cabinet After Khashoggi Kiling

Dec 27, 2018
Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Saudi Arabia's King Salman has ordered a cabinet reshuffle. It's a major overhaul, and it follows international outrage over the death in October of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Khashoggi was killed in Istanbul by a Saudi hit squad. Today the King named new security chiefs and a new foreign minister, but he kept the levers of power firmly in the hands of his son, the controversial Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. NPR's Deborah Amos reports.

DEBORAH AMOS, BYLINE: The new names were announced by royal decree on Saudi television. The Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir is out, replaced by Ibrahim al-Assaf, a longtime finance minister. His appointment is striking because al-Assaf was reportedly locked in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel last year with hundreds of other princes and businessmen in what the government called an anti-corruption campaign. Saudi analysts say al-Assaf is an experienced longtime minister, a signal the king is putting in place a trusted senior adviser with international respect.

The murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul has fueled international outrage, and it's strained a decades-old Saudi-American alliance. While President Trump declared his continued support, leading lawmakers in Washington blame the crown prince for the killing.

The new Saudi lineup is a mix of younger princes and experienced ministers. Regional analysts say it will take more than these changing faces to calm the storms of protest. Tamara Cofman Wittes, a senior fellow at the Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings in Washington, says the first step - the Saudis must take responsibility for the killing of Khashoggi, but there needs to be more.

TAMARA COFMAN WITTES: A second meaningful change would be a release of the dozens of peaceful activists who have been detained over the last year, year and a half, some of whom reportedly have been subjected to horrific abuse while in detention.

AMOS: The young and powerful crown prince was hailed as a reformer in Western capitals, but his pursuit of a war in Yemen that's become a humanitarian disaster has been called reckless, as has his crackdown on dissent, including Khashoggi. It's made him a pariah in the West, says Wittes.

WITTES: You know, from the moment Mohammed bin Salman was appointed defense minister at his tender age, I have heard voices from around the gulf expressing a desire to see more experienced foreign policy hands advising him. At the end of the day, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. He can have all the good advice he needs, but he's got to take it.

AMOS: King Salman has decreed a government shakeup, but his son is still fully in charge. Deborah Amos, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.