Saudi Arabian King Abdullah is reportedly considering his first Cabinet reshuffle and could include changes to important positions as foreign minister and oil minister in order to induce new talent into his regime. Abdullah succeeded from his half-brother Fahd in August 2005 but did not change the government composition.
Speculation is rife that Abdullah may change Prince Saud al-Faisal from the post of foreign minister that he has held for the last 30 years with Crown Prince Sultan’s son Bandar who was a former US Ambassador and current secretary of the National Security Council. Al-Faisal has been suffering from health issues and represents the old guard but changes may not stray away from promoting from within the membership of the influential advisory assembly called Shura Council. Others likely to lose their job are 67-year old oil minister Ali Naimi who has held the job for 10 years, Culture and Information Minister Iyad Madani, and Ministry of Education Khalid al-Angari. Already Saudi Ambassador to the US Prince Turki al-Faisal has resigned from his position without citing clear reasons which alerted the media of an impending change.
It is not clear if the changes spring from sharp divisions from within the House of Saud on growing crisis in the region, including Iraq, and the growing influence of Iran. Many members of the family are reportedly angling for covert support from Saudi Arabia to Sunnis in Iraq in defiance of close ally the United States to offset the Shia government there and stem the growing influence of financially weak Iran. Last month, Saudi officials warned that they may be forced to support Sunnis in insurgency if the US should withdraw from their prematurely. Another area of disagreement wit the US is Lebanon where they favor a more assertive policy against the Hezbollah which is supported by both Shia Iran and Syria while being torn by the Israeli invasion there.
The House of Saud’s rule over oil-rich Saudi Arabia is an unhappy and controversial colonial legacy with former king Abdul-Aziz founding the modern oligarchy in 1932. When he died in 1953, he left behind 40 sons and numerous daughters through his 17 wives. His sons are all ageing and the succession after Abdullah, who is already in his 80s, is expected sooner as his other sons including Sultan are in their 70s