Hard-line Saudi Arabian interior minister moves closer to throne

Nayef claimed that 'Zionists' behind 9/11.

Nayef bin Abd Al-Aziz 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Nayef bin Abd Al-Aziz 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
Saudi Arabian Interior Minister Prince Nayef Bin Abd Al-Aziz, who last week made headlines for saying that there was no need for female members of parliament in Saudi Arabia, has been promoted to second deputy prime minister, the Saudi newspaper ArabNews reported. This puts Nayef, around 75, second in line to the throne of King Abdallah Bin Abd Al-Aziz, after the ailing Deputy Premier Prince Sultan, who has been out of the country for medical treatment. In an interview to a Kuwaiti paper after the September 11 attacks in the US, Nayef said "the Zionists benefited from the events of 9/11 and I think they are behind the events." He also headed the Saudi Committee for Support of the al-Quds Intifada, which aided the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. According to a PBS profile of him, Prince Nayef's politics are aligned with the conservative Islamic tenets that underpin Saudi Arabian society. The House of Saud is historically bound to a particularly devout platform of Islam based upon the teachings of the 18th century cleric Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, who was an important ally of Saud family patriarch Muhammad bin Saud. Restrictions in the kingdom are particularly harsh for women, who are banned from driving and cannot perform most tasks outside the house without being accompanied by a male guardian, usually a husband, a father or a close family member. While Crown Prince Abdullah had begun to advance reformist policies, Prince Nayef has garnered political clout from conservative Saudis and courted support for the Saud regime with right-wing religious factions. In what some viewed as a tough stance toward Western power, Nayef denied the US access to several Saudis implicated in the 1996 bombing of Khobar Towers in Dhahran, which killed 19 American servicemen. More recently, Nayef has been accused of turning a blind eye to the activities of radical clerics who wish to cleanse the Islamic holy land of non-Muslims. Progressive Saudis criticize hard-liners like Nayef for seeking to uphold the kingdom's strict Islamic traditions at the expense of its citizens and its future. Since 1975, Prince Nayef has headed Saudi Arabia's Ministry of the Interior, which oversees the nation's civil security forces and maintains stability within the kingdom. As the primary threats to the Saudi government have shifted from external countries such as Iraq and Iran to internal volatility, power has shifted subtly from Prince Sultan's military to Nayef's interior service forces, PBS wrote. Nayef last week said that the appointment of members to the country's parliament, the Shoura Council, which only has an advisory role, ensures that the most qualified people are appointed, something that could not be guaranteed in open elections. Not everyone seems to be pleased with the decision: Prince Talal Bin Abd Al-Aziz is reported to have faxed a statement to an international news agency in which he asked the royal court to clarify what was meant by this nomination and whether it meant that Prince Nayef would become crown prince. He also argued that the appointment of Nayef as crown prince should be decided by the Allegiance Council, made up of the most prominent members of the royal family, who would vote to appoint future crown princes. Prince Talal is the brother of King Abdallah; Prince Nayef is a half-brother. http://www.themedialine.org