President Recep Tayyip Erdogan congratulated new Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman early Thursday, as the two men expressed a desire for stronger ties between their nations, presidential sources said.
The move wasn't totally unanticipated as a possibility, but has far-reaching consequences. In an apparent attempt to appease the family, the decree had a clause that made it clear that Prince Mohammed bin Salman will not be allowed to appoint one of his own sons as his successor. He had, however, been reported intermittently to be in very poor health. That account has frequently criticised Mohammed bin Salman, suggesting his impulsiveness could be unsafe.
Intent on dispelling speculation of internal divisions in the ruling dynasty, Saudi television was quick to show that the change in succession was amicable and supported by the family.
To be fair, Saudi Arabia probably does have bigger and more pressing problems right now, particularly reforming its oil-dominated economy, an effort in which the new crown prince has undisputedly taken the lead, with both vision and energy.
"How do you have a dialogue with a regime built on an extremist ideology ... which [says] they must control the land of Muslims and spread their Twelver Jaafari sect in the Muslim world?", Prince Mohammed said.
The Saudi Information Ministry said three of its elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps members had been arrested aboard an explosive-laden boat near an oil platform in the Gulf. At the same time, the king ended the career of his nephew, 57-year-old Mohammed bin Nayef, the previous crown prince, who had served as interior minister since 2015. His elevation to Crown Prince ends a behind-the-scenes struggle for power and answers what would happen to his plans for Saudi Arabia when King Salman, now 81, dies or steps aside.
"Bin Salman, 31, has urged a harder line against Iran and suggested the "battle should be taken" to the Saudis" regional rivals.
"The president and the crown prince committed to close cooperation to advance our shared goals of security, stability, and prosperity across the Middle East and beyond", said a White House readout.
Advertisements and proclamations have been churned out by public figures such as clerics and royals and businessmen in their thousands in a country where dissent against the absolute monarchy is nearly non-existent - but a full page advertisement taken out in a Saudi newspaper by McDonald's, wishing the promoted prince "peace and prosperity", has perplexed many people both inside the kingdom and internationally. Analysts and diplomats say he was the prime mover in the kingdom's decision to go to war in Yemen, and more recently, to lead the campaign against Qatar.