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Saudi Arabia's Game of Thrones

King Salman Amasses Power

Saudi security agents stand guard as U.S. President Barack Obama meets with Saudi Arabia's King Salman at Erga Palace in Riyadh, January 27, 2015. Jim Bourg / Courtesy Reuters

In just over ten days of rule, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has moved swiftly to consolidate power. In doing so, he has raised the profile of two of the royal family’s so-called third-generation princes—Prince Mohammad bin Nayef, the deputy crown prince and minister of the interior, and Prince Mohammad bin Salman, the king’s young son, who is now defense minister and chief of the royal court—and sidelined a number of their cousins. In a family where, for decades, political power has been dispersed among several members, the centralization of power is certain to raise eyebrows. It also raises questions about how the Saudi-American relationship, which has weathered numerous contemporary crises (9/11, the Iraq War, the Arab Spring), is going to be managed under the new ruler.

SIBLING SHUFFLE

Since the reign of King Faisal (1964–1975), effective decision-making power in Saudi Arabia has been shared by a group

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