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There's been a shake-up in the line of succession in Saudi Arabia that may have significant consequences for the U.S.
King Salman has dumped his nephew as crown prince and made his son, Mohammed bin Salman, first in line to succeed him.
Despite his youth, Mohammed bin Salman has long had a visible role in the government, and has spearheaded the kingdom's attempts to wean itself off oil as part of an economic strategy announced last year.
Key reform policies currently in place -- such as the Vision 2030 plan and a planned IPO by Saudi oil giant Aramco -- were already being driven by him.
As defense minister, he has overseen the Saudi-led military campaign against Yemen's Houthi rebels, which has caused the deaths of thousands of civilians since 2015 and left the country spiraling towards "total social, economic and institutional collapse," according to the United Nations.
The consolidation of power, which was more rapid than expected, gives allies a clear indication of who will potentially lead the kingdom for decades.
It may also send a signal to other regional powers about Saudi Arabia's foreign policy aims at a time of heightened tensions in the Middle East.
When and if "MBS," as he is know, succeeds his father, he will be the first Saudi king who is not the son of the country's founder King Abdul Aziz Al Saud, also known as Ibn Saud.
There has been speculation for years as to the future line of succession, with the throne moving between the increasingly aged sons of Ibn Saud.
By elevating his own son first to deputy crown prince, and now crown prince, King Salman appears to have cut off other branches of the family from the throne.
So why should we care if an aging, filthy rich, religious fanatic of an autocrat replaces one dissolute member of his family with another?
Mohammed bin Salman is the architect of the Saudis' more assertive foreign policy. The kingdom was always a cautious player in the region, despite spending hundreds of billions of petro dollars on the best weapons money could buy from the west.
Now, the Saudis not only find themselves engaged in a grinding war in Yemen, but are also aggressively funding several jihadist militias in Syria. That some of those militias are as hostile to the U.S. as they are to President Assad doesn't seem to concern him.
As a counterweight to the Iranians, Saudi Arabia will become increasingly important to the U.S. as Tehran rearms and grows bolder in throwing its weight around the region. Mohammed bin Salman may be the best choice to work with the west to contain Iranian ambitions.