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Military shake-up aims at installing 'high energy' people to achieve modernisation targets: MBS

Updated February 28, 2018

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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman meets the newly appointed military chiefs. —
Photo courtesy Saudi Press Agency
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman meets the newly appointed military chiefs. — Photo courtesy Saudi Press Agency

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met the newly appointed military chiefs in Jeddah, Arab News reported on Wednesday.

In a major shake-up in country's defence establishment late Monday, Saudi King Salman had replaced top military commanders including the chief of staff via royal decrees.

The crown prince, who is also the country’s defence minister, received the new Chief of Staff Gen Fayad Al-Ruwaili, Commander of the Ground Forces Lt Gen Fahd bin Abdullah, Commander of Air Defence Forces Lt Gen Mezyed bin Sulaiman and Lt Gen Turki bin Bandar, who was appointed as Commander of the Air Force.

Editorial: Saudi Arabia reforms

"During the reception, the crown prince congratulated them on their new military ranks, wishing them success in serving their religion and their homeland," Arab News said.

Addressing the move, the crown prince said the shake-up announced by his ageing father, King Salman, was aimed at installing “high energy” people who could achieve modernisation targets. “We want to work with believers,” the crown prince told the The Washington Post in an interview on Tuesday night.

King Salman had also decreed a series of civilian appointments that saw younger officials being elevated to key positions as deputy ministers, deputy provincial governors and royal court advisers.

The changing of the military guard came just a month shy of the third anniversary of the launch of a Saudi-led intervention to fight Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

The young prince has pursued an assertive regional policy, including leading a military intervention in neighbouring Yemen since 2015 that is seen as a proxy war with arch-rival Iran.

The Yemen conflict has led to what the UN describes as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

More than 9,200 people have been killed in the conflict and another nearly 2,200 Yemenis have died of cholera, according to the World Health Organisation.

Curing 'cancer of corruption'

This is not the first time the crown prince has made major changes in the Saudi government. Last year, he arrested country's most powerful princes, military chiefs, businessmen and ministers overnight.

Explaining his move to The Washinton Post, Prince Mohammed said he was curing the "cancer of corruption" from the Saudi "body".

“You have a body that has cancer everywhere, the cancer of corruption. You need to have chemo, the shock of chemo, or the cancer will eat the body,” he told the newspaper.

“The kingdom couldn't meet budget targets without halting this looting,” he added.