Saudi Arabia overhauls military top brass

Saudi Arabia's King Salman reshuffled top military officers and several deputy ministers on Monday in a move seen as elevating younger officials to senior positions.

RIYADH • Saudi Arabia has replaced top military commanders, including its chief of staff, in the latest move to inject fresh blood into the kingdom's upper ranks.

The changes, announced in a string of royal decrees late on Monday, come a month before the third anniversary of a Saudi-led military intervention in the Yemen war which has killed thousands and triggered a humanitarian crisis.

Saudi Arabia for decades has been home to some of the world's most restrictive policies, including banning women from driving or mixing with men as well as outlawing cinemas and other forms of entertainment.

But since King Salman named his son, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, as heir to the throne last June, the kingdom has witnessed a string of reforms aimed at moving it away from its economic dependence on oil.

The king on Monday replaced the heads of the ground and air defence forces as well as several deputy ministers and, in a rare move, named a woman to the government.

"Termination of the services of General Abdul Rahman bin Saleh al-Bunyan, Chief of Staff," the official Saudi Press Agency announced, adding that Mr Fayyad al-Ruwaili has been appointed as his replacement.

No official reason was given for the sweeping overhaul.

However, state media said the decisions were taken "upon the recommendation" of the 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed, who is also Defence Minister and widely seen as the power behind the throne.

Ms Tamadar bint Yousef al-Ramah was appointed Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Development, a rare senior government post for a woman in the conservative kingdom.

Prince Turki bin Talal, the brother of billionaire Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, was appointed deputy governor of the southern Asir province.

Prince Al-Waleed, dubbed the Warren Buffett of Saudi Arabia, was one of about 200 princes, ministers and tycoons detained in Riyadh's luxury Ritz-Carlton Hotel last November over what the government calls elite corruption. The crackdown was widely viewed as a mark of Prince Mohammed's consolidation of power.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 28, 2018, with the headline 'Saudi Arabia overhauls military top brass'. Print Edition | Subscribe