S. Arabia shakes up its military, gives women more positions
2 March, 2018Saudi King Salman made a drastic reshuffle in the kingdom's defence leadership last week. The military chief of staff, air defence and land forces heads and senior defence and interior ministry officials were removed. Observers believe the reshuffle in the military will tighten Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's grip on power. Prince Mohammed at 32 is also defence minister. The changes come as the kingdom's bloody conflict with Yemen's Houthi rebels nears the end of its third year. The overhaul, analysts said, was not directly linked to Saudi Arabia's three-year-old military campaign in Yemen against the Iran-aligned armed Houthi movement. But the war has largely stalled and international criticism is growing over a humanitarian crisis and air strikes that have killed civilians. Prince Mohammed is likely to face questions from allies frustrated with the lack of progress during planned trips to the US and Europe next week.Other royal decrees last week allowed women to serve in the kingdom's armed forces and for the first time appointed a female at a government job. With his promise to modernise the deeply conservative kingdom by sponsoring public concerts and lifting bans on cinemas and women driving, the crown prince Mohammed already gained the support of young people, while receiving strong criticism from the ultraconservative clerics. On the eve of his trip to the US and Europe, Prince Mohammed said in an interview for “Washington Post” he maintains support from the royal family despite internal divisions on the arrests last month of 11 princes in a drive against corruption. “You have a body that has cancer everywhere, the cancer of corruption. You need to have chemo, the shock of chemo, or the cancer will eat the body,” Prince Mohammed told the US newspaper.