Saudi King sacks military chiefs, appoints woman as deputy minister in major shakeup

Saudi King sacks military chiefs, appoints woman as deputy minister in major shakeup

Saudi Arabia's King Salman has reshuffled some of the kingdom's top military officers and several deputy ministers in a broad shakeup seen as elevating younger officials in key economic and security areas.

Key points:

  • Sweeping changes a hallmark of King Salman's reign
  • Tamadur bint Youssef al-Rammah is made deputy labour minister, a rare senior promotion for a woman in Saudi Arabia
  • King Salman's son, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman is believed to be the driver behind a recent spate of reforms

Several new deputies in economic and security-related ministries were appointed, including Tamadur bint Youssef al-Ramah as deputy labour minister, a rare senior post for a woman in the deeply conservative kingdom.

Saudi Arabia made the announcement in a flurry of royal decrees carried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency. As with many announcements in the ultraconservative Sunni kingdom, it was short on details.

King Salman "approved the document on developing the Ministry of Defence, including the vision and strategy of the ministry's developing program, the operational pattern targeting its development, the organisational structure, governance and human resources requirements", one statement said.

That restructuring was part of a "multi-year effort", tweeted Prince Faisal bin Farhan, a senior adviser at the Saudi Embassy in Washington.

Prominent among the personnel changes was the firing of military chief of staff General Abdulrahman bin Saleh al-Bunyan, who will become a consultant to the royal court. New chiefs were appointed to the country's air defence and land forces.

Also appointed as an assistant defence minister was Khaled bin Hussain al-Biyari, the CEO of the publicly traded mobile phone and internet service provider Saudi Telecom Co.

The decisions come as the Saudi-led coalition, chiefly backed by the United Arab Emirates, remains mired in a stalemate in Yemen, the Arab world's poorest country.

Over 10,000 people have been killed in the war in which Saudi-led forces back Yemen's internationally recognised government against Shiite rebels and their allies who are holding the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, and much of the north of the country.

The kingdom faces wide international criticism for its airstrikes killing civilians and striking markets, hospitals and other civilian targets. Aid groups also blame a Saudi-led blockade of Yemen for pushing the country to the brink of famine.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the heir to the throne after his father King Salman, is the Saudi Defence Minister and architect of the Yemen war.

While the Crown Prince has burnished his reputation abroad with promises of business-friendly reforms and other pledges, his role in Yemen haunts that carefully considered public persona.