EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: It is unlikely that the new heir to the Saudi throne, Prince Mohammed bin Salman – who will be the first of King ibn Saud’s grandchildren to come to power – will stop the private Saudi program of promoting Salafism. Salafism is the radical form of Islam practiced by the Saudis, and their export of their beliefs has been a major cause of the Muslim world’s move towards radicalism over the last nearly 40 years. But the Saudi leadership might respond to a US suggestion that they begin to omit Indonesia and India from their program. This would protect a critical quarter of the world’s Muslim population from moving from moderate Islam to radical Islam.
After 64 years of rule by the sons of King ibn Saud, control of Saudi Arabia is moving to a new generation. The ailing 81-year old King Salman recently decreed that his 31-year old son, Mohammed bin Salman, will become King when he dies.
A major challenge hanging over the heads of the Saudi ruling family for decades has been how to continue their remarkably long-lived unity beyond the generation of King ibn Saud’s 54 sons. If the preparation for the epochal decision to make Mohammed bin Salman the Crown Prince has succeeded in avoiding division in the family, this challenge has now been met.
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