Saudi Arabia’s King Salman on Saturday removed Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, who was seen as a top contender to the throne, as the chief of National Guard. Prince Miteb has been replaced by Prince Khalid bin Abdulaziz bin Mohammed bin Ayyaf Al-Muqren, reported The Saudi Gazette.
The news came along with the arrest of 11 princes, four ministers and tens of former ministers as a part of the new anti-corruption probe headed by the favoured Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Who is Prince Miteb bin Abdullah?
Born in 1953, Prince Miteb was the last remaining member of late King Abdullah’s Shammar branch of the family to retain an important position at the top of the Saudi power structure. Since Miteb was the preferred son of Abdullah, he was once thought to be a leading contender for the throne.
He is married to the daughter of Saleh Fustock whose company is the local partner for The Vinnell Corporation which has contracts to modernise the guard. Fustock’s sister was also one of King Abdullah’s most important wives. Prince Miteb is an avid horse rider and his son, Prince Abdullah, was part of the bronze-medal-winning Saudi equestrian team at the London Olympics in 2012.
Miteb had been in command of the force since his father –who ran it for five decades– became the country’s de facto leader in 1996. However, the Prince was officially named as the force’s commander only in 2010. His position was consolidated in 2013 when the National Guard was given its own ministry and he was named as its minister.
“He’s very pragmatic. I think he’s a lot smarter than people think he is. And he’s very ambitious,” a diplomatic source in the Gulf told news agency Reuters.
Scholar Joseph Kechichian wrote in his book ‘Power and Succession in Arab Monarchies’ that Prince Miteb was “well-liked by tribal leaders and recruits. In less than fifty years, the Guard transformed a segment of the Saudi population from destitute tribal elements into well-off, well-armed, and well-trained recruits.”
While the main function of the elite internal security force was to form a power base for King Abdullah and a defense against any possible military coup, the guard also provided the country’s powerful tribes with their main link to the government. It also runs military academies, housing projects and hospitals, and is a substantial source of revenue for US military contractors who train its some 1,00,000 active members and 27,000 irregular volunteers.
As commander, Miteb was also responsible for the annual Janadariyah festival which celebrates the traditions, architecture and folklore of the Saudi kingdom’s various regions. The festival brings political benefits to those associated with it since it proves as a platform to celebrate the cultural heritage of Saudi– something which seems to be shrinking at the kingdom inches towards modernisation.