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National Interest: What to Expect from the New Saudi Crown Prince

Author: Bruce O. Riedel, Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy, Saban Center for Middle East Policy, Brookings Institution
November 1, 2011

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Bruce Riedel discusses what the selection of Saudi Prince Nayef will mean for regional politics in the Middle East and U.S. interests.

The selection of 78-year-old Prince Nayef to succeed Prince Sultan as the new crown prince of Saudi Arabia ushers in the beginning of what promises to be a season of big changes at the top of the royal family and cabinet, all set in the midst of the Arab awakening. The stakes for the United States are huge, which explains the high-powered delegation sent to Sultan’s funeral including Vice President Joe Biden, Senator John McCain and Director of Central Intelligence David Petraeus.

Sultan was crown prince and minister of defense and aviation. He held the latter post since 1962, making him the longest-serving defense minister in the world. During his half century in government, he amassed a fortune estimated by Saudi sources at over $270 billion. He built the modern Saudi military and concluded some of the largest arms sales in history—with America, Britain and China, among others. His ministry led the talks on the most recent U.S.-Saudi deal that is worth $60 billion to the American defense industry.

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