Saudi Arabia demotes foreign minister in wake of Khashoggi case

Saudi Arabia's King Salman has appointed a new foreign minister as part of a major cabinet reshuffle, according to Saudi state media.

Adel al Jubeir, the soft-spoken foreign minister since 2015 and face of the Saudi response to the crime in Istanbul, was replaced by Ibrahim al Assaf, who was formerly a finance minister.

The reshuffle came with the Saudi government trying to deal with intense worldwide pressure over the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October.

Both councils are headed by the king's son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whose powers, including roles as deputy prime minister and defence minister, were untouched in the overhaul.

Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Faisal has replaced Turki Al Sheikh as president of the Sports Authority, while Turki Al Sheikh has been appointed as Chairman of the Entertainment Authority.

The decree also appoints a woman - Eiman Al Mutairi - to the post of assistant to the Minister of Commerce and Investment.

Turki Shabbaneh has been appointed as Minister of Media, while Hamad Al Sheikh was appointed Minister of Education.

The man to replace him, Ibrahim al-Assaf, was no less of a surprise because he was among dozens of prominent Saudi royals and businessmen detained in Riyadh's Ritz-Carlton in November, 2017. Prince Sultan had been head of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH).

King Salman further ordered the creation of the Saudi Space Agency, to be chaired by his 62-year-old son, Prince Sultan bin Salman.

"The reshuffle saw the appointment of some young princes, but also veteran statesmen to positions of power".

After the reshuffle, Prince Mohammed is set to maintain his political and security posts, including that of defense minster.

Saudi Arabia on Thursday said it was creating government bodies to boost oversight of its intelligence operations, in the wake of Khashoggi's murder. "Even before the Khashoggi affair", Kabalan said in reference to the murder of Khashoggi on October 2.

Senior U.S. officials indicated they might back Prince Ahmed as king, Reuters reported last month, citing unidentified people close to the Saudi court.

The killing badly damaged Prince Mohammed's worldwide image as a transformational leader committed to changes Saudi Arabia's allies in the West long hoped for.

Saudi Arabia last week slammed as "interference" a US Senate resolution that held Prince Mohammed responsible for the killing, warning that the move could have repercussions on its strategic ties with Washington.

  • Rogelio Becker