The Jamal Khashoggi murder was a milestone for Middle Eastern politics as well as for Saudi Arabia. The Khashoggi case, which has both short-term and long-term implications for regional politics, will continue to influence Saudi politics. One of the most important impacts of the murder is on Saudi domestic politics. The Khashoggi case caused the worst diplomatic crisis since the 9/11 terrorist attacks and forced Saudi Arabia to reshuffle the royal cabinet.
On Dec. 27, King Salman announced sweeping changes to the Saudi government. The two main areas of the reshuffle were foreign and security policies. The first area of change was foreign policy. Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, who was demoted to the position of minister of state responsible for foreign affairs, was replaced by Ibrahim al-Assaf, who was arrested last year by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) during the so-called anti-corruption campaign.
The other notable field of change was the security sector. Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, son of the former king Abdullah, was removed from his position as the chief of the National Guard. Prince Miteb was replaced by Prince Abdullah bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz. Furthermore, while Musaed al-Aiban was appointed as national security adviser, Khalid bin Qirar al-Harbi was appointed as general security chief.
It seems that there are several objectives of the most recent governmental restructuring in the kingdom. First, it aims to consolidate the position of MBS. Many international observers accept that the cabinet change aimed to alleviate international criticisms. The Saudi government wants to show the world that it took necessary steps in order to punish those who were involved in the murder and those who shirk their duties. Even though there is no real policy change in the kingdom, the Saudi king is attempting to show the world that changes are being made. Furthermore, in order to strengthen the power of MBS, many young princes who are close to the crown prince were appointed to higher positions.
Second, the Saudi government aims to re-attract foreign investment. The appointment of Ibrahim Assaf, the former minister of finance and a frequent participant at the Davos summits, is one of the indications of this target. After the killing of Khashoggi, many leading international investors pulled out from the kingdom and the share of foreign investment fell severely. By changing the minister of foreign affairs, the kingdom aims to persuade international investors to return to the kingdom’s market. MBS needs urgent money to finance his Vision 2030 and NEOM Project, which aim to diversify and to restructure the country’s economy. MBS knows that his future largely depends on the economic and financial support of the Western countries.
[Daily Sabah, 9 January 2019]