Saudi King Orders Cabinet Shakeup

December 27, 2018 Updated: December 28, 2018

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates—Saudi Arabia’s King Salman issued a wide-ranging overhaul of top government posts on Dec. 27, including naming a new foreign minister.

He also ordered a shakeup of the kingdom’s supreme council that oversees matters related to security. The council is headed by the king’s son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whose powers including roles as deputy prime minister and defense minister, were untouched in the overhaul.

As part of the cabinet change, Adel al-Jubeir was replaced as foreign minister by Ibrahim al-Assaf, a former finance minister. Al-Jubeir was appointed to minister of state for foreign affairs at the Foreign Ministry.

Al-Assaf is well known to international investors, having led several Saudi delegations to the World Economic Forum in Davos. He served as finance minister under King Fahd and King Abdullah.

Al-Assaf sits on the boards of oil-giant Saudi Aramco and the kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund, which are both overseen by the crown prince. He holds a Ph.D. in Economics from Colorado State University and a master’s degree from the University of Denver, according to his biography on Aramco’s website.

Al-Assaf had been serving as a minister of state last year when he was reportedly detained at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh along with dozens of high-ranking officials and princes in an anti-corruption sweep led by the crown prince. Shortly afterwards, al-Assaf appeared back at a cabinet meeting to the surprise of many.

The changes announced on Dec. 27 include aides to the crown prince, including Musaed al-Aiban as national security adviser—in addition to other positions he holds—and former media minister Awwad al-Awwad as adviser to the royal court. Khalid al-Harbi was named as head of general security.

Turki al-Sheikh, a confidant of the crown prince, was removed as head of the Sports Authority and replaced by Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki al-Faisal. This means al-Sheikh no longer oversees a cybersecurity and programming body that was led by Saud al-Qahtani, a close aide to the crown prince who was fired from his post and sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department for helping to mastermind the plot that led to Khashoggi’s killing.

Al-Sheikh will now lead the General Entertainment Authority, a body created in recent years to help organize and promote concerts and other events that had long been banned in the conservative country.

Turki Shabbaneh, who has held positions in privately owned Saudi TV channels, was named minister of media. Hamad al-Sheikh, a royal court adviser and former college dean who studied in the U.S., was appointed minister of education.

Edited by The Epoch Times