Salman of Saudi Arabia

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King of Saudi Arabia
Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques
Salman bin Abdull aziz December 9, 2013.jpg
Salman in 2013
King of Saudi Arabia
Reign 23 January 2015 – present
Bay'ah 23 January 2015
Predecessor Abdullah
Heir apparent Muqrin
Full name
Salman bin Abdulaziz bin Abdul Rahman bin Faisal bin Turki bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Saud
House House of Saud
Father Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia
Mother Hassa Al Sudairi
Born (1935-12-31) 31 December 1935 (age 79)
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Religion Sunni Islam

Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (Arabic: سلمان ابن عبد العزيز آل سعود‎, Salmān bin ʻAbd al-ʻAzīz Āl Saʻūd, Najdi Arabic pronunciation: [sælˈmæːn ben ˈʢæbd ælʢæˈziːz ʔæːl sæˈʢuːd]; born 31 December 1935) is the King of Saudi Arabia, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and the head of the House of Saud. He had been Minister of Defence since 2011, and was Governor of Riyadh Province from 1963 to 2011. Salman became king on 23 January 2015 following the death of his half brother, King Abdullah.[1][2] As one of the Sudairi Seven, his full brothers include Fahd, Sultan and Nayef.

Early life[edit]

Salman was born on 31 December 1935.[3] He is reported to be the 25th son of Ibn Saud.[3][4] His mother was Hassa Al Sudairi.[5] Salman and his six brothers make up what is referred to as the Sudairi Seven.[6] He was raised in the Murabba Palace.[7]

Salman received his early education in the Princes' School in the capital city of Riyadh, a school established by Ibn Saud specifically to provide education for his children.[8] He studied religion and modern science.[9]

Early experience[edit]

Salman's governmental experience dates back to 17 March 1954, when, at the age of 19, his father appointed him as emir and Deputy Governor of Riyadh.[3][9] Later, he was appointed as the Governor of Riyadh with the rank of minister on 19 April 1955.[3][9] He resigned this post on 25 December 1960.[8]

Governor of Riyadh[edit]

Governor Salman bin Abdulaziz with Vladimir Putin in 2007

Salman was appointed governor of Riyadh Province on 4 February 1963.[8] His tenure lasted for forty-eight years from 1963 to 2011.[9]

As governor, he contributed to the development of Riyadh from a mid-sized town into a major urban metropolis. He served as an important liaison to attract tourism, capital projects and foreign investment to his country. He favored political and economic relationships with the West.[10] During his governorship, Salman recruited advisors from King Saud University.[11]

During Salman's five decades as Riyadh governor, he became adept at managing the delicate balance of clerical, tribal, and princely interests that determine Saudi policy.[12]

In January 2011, he ordered the arrest of Riyadh beggars "who try to take advantage of the generosity of people". All foreign beggars were deported and Saudi beggars were placed in a rehabilitation program by the Ministry of Social Affairs.[13]

He was also the chairman of the King Abdulaziz Foundation for Research and Archives (KAFRA),[14] King Abdulaziz Museum,[15] the Prince Salman Center for Disability Research and the Prince Fahd bin Salman Charitable Society for the Care of Kidney Patients.

“Deputy Crown Prince”[edit]

U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta with Salman at the Pentagon in April 2012

On 5 November 2011, Salman was appointed Second Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence, replacing his full brother, the late Crown Prince Sultan,[16] and late Prince Sattam bin Abdulaziz was named as the governor of the Riyadh Province. Prince Salman was also named as a member of the National Security Council (NSC) on the same day.[17]

It is speculated that his placement in the immediate line of succession occurred due to his qualities. First, he has a conciliatory and diplomatic nature. He headed the family council, called The Descendants' Council (Majlis al Uthra in Arabic), that was established by King Fahd in 2000 to solve family matters, reach consensus and try to avoid any publicly embarrassing behaviour of some family members.[18][19] Second, Salman belongs to the “middle generation” in the royal family; therefore, he could develop close ties with both generations socially and culturally. Last, as a result of his long-term governorship, he had developed a network of relationships within Arab and international circles.[20]

Salman continued the policy of military intervention in Bahrain, to try to crush the Bahrain uprising. In April 2012, Salman visited both the United States and the United Kingdom where he met with U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron.[21][22] 2013 saw Saudi military spending climb to $67bn, overtaking that of the UK, France and Japan to place fourth globally.[23] As defense minister, Salman was head of the military as Saudi Arabia joined the United States and other Arab countries in carrying out airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria in 2014-15.

Crown Prince[edit]

On 18 June 2012, Salman was appointed as Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia shortly after the death of his brother, Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz.[24][25] Prince Salman was also made First deputy prime minister.[26] His nomination as crown prince and deputy prime minister was considered by Reuters to be a signal that King Abdullah's cautious reforms were likely to continue.[26] On the other hand, Saudi reformists stated that whilst Prince Salman, in contrast to other Saudi royals, took a more diplomatic approach towards them, he could not be considered a political reformer.[27] They also argued that, like King Abdullah, Salman focused mainly on economic improvement rather than political change.[27]

On 27 August 2012, the Royal Court announced that Salman was in charge of state affairs whilst King Abdullah was out of the country.[28] Prince Salman launched a Twitter account on 23 February 2013.[29] In September 2012, Salman was named as the deputy chairman of the military service council.[30] He is a strong advocate for philanthropy in poor Muslim nations such as Somalia, Sudan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.[10]

King of Saudi Arabia[edit]

As the appointed Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, at the age of 79, Salman became King of Saudi Arabia, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and Prime Minister, on 23 January 2015, following the death of his half-brother, King Abdullah. Salman's half-brother, Muqrin bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, was appointed Crown Prince and First Deputy Prime Minister, and Abdullah's de facto Prime Minister, Khaled al-Tuwaijri was immediately dismissed and replaced with the king's 30 year-old son Mohammed, cementing his power.

Salman is conservative and holds traditional views with regards to political reforms and social change. It is widely expected that Salman will continue the policies of his predecessor, who liked to be known as a modernizer but also oversaw a regime that was widely criticized for its human rights record.[31]


Salman was often a mediator in settling royal conflicts among the extended Al Saud family – estimated at 4,000 princes. He was a prominent figure of the royal council, which allowed him to select which princes will be delegated which responsibilities of the Kingdom.[10]

Salman and his family own a media group, including pan-Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat and Al Eqtisadiah.[32][33] Though he owns only 10% of the Saudi Research and Marketing Group (SRMG), he is often referred by auditors as its owner.[32] He reportedly controls the organization through his son Prince Faisal,[32] who is a former chairman of the concern. The SRMG publishes such daily papers as Arab News, Asharq Al-Awsat and Al Eqtisadiah through its subsidiary Saudi Research and Publishing Company (SRPC).[34]

In a similar vein, Salman is reported to have some strong alliances with significant journalists. He is said to be close to Al Arabiya TV director and Asharq Al-Awsat journalist Abdelrahman Al Rashid and to Othman Al Omeir, who launched and is the owner of the liberal e-newspaper Elaph. King Salman is thought to have connections with the Elaph website.[35]


In November 2002, in reference to charitable organizations accused of terrorism, Salman stated that he had personally taken part in the activities of such organizations,[36] but added "I know the assistance goes to doing good. But if there are those who change some work of charity into evil activities, then it is not the Kingdom's responsibility, nor its people, which helps its Arab and Muslim brothers around the world."[36]

Al Jazeera referred to Salman's views reported in a 2007 U.S. diplomatic cable.[37][38] Salman said that "the pace and extent of reforms depend on social and cultural factors, ... that for social reasons—not [religious] reasons—reforms cannot be imposed by the [Saudi government] or there will be negative reactions, ... [and] that changes have to be introduced in a sensitive and timely manner." According to the cable, he said that "democracy should not be imposed" in Saudi Arabia, since the country "is composed of tribes and regions and if democracy were imposed, each tribe and region would have its political party."[38]

Personal life[edit]

Salman in his youth

Salman bin Abdulaziz married three times.[39] His first wife was Sultana bint Turki Al Sudairi,[40] who died at the age of 71 in late July 2011.[41] She was a daughter of Salman's maternal uncle, Turki bin Ahmad Al Sudairi,[41] who was one of the former governors of Asir Province.[42] Sultana Al Sudairi supported the Prince Fahd bin Salman Charitable Society for the Care of Kidney Patients and other charitable organizations in the country.[43] His children from this marriage are Prince Fahd, Prince Ahmed, Prince Sultan, Prince Abdulaziz, Prince Faisal and Princess Hussa (born 1974).[43]

His eldest son, Fahd bin Salman, died of heart failure at the age of 47 in July 2001.[44] His second son, Ahmad bin Salman, died after a heart attack in July 2002 at the age of 43.[45] Sultan bin Salman became the first person of royal blood, the first Arab, and first Muslim to fly in outer space when he flew aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-51-G) in June 1985[46] and is currently the chairman of the Saudi Commission for Tourism & Antiquities (SCTA). Abdulaziz bin Salman, another son, has been the deputy minister of oil since 1995.[47] Faisal bin Salman is the governor of Madinah province.

His child from his second marriage with Sarah bint Faisal Al Subai'ai is Prince Saud. His children from his third marriage with Fahda bint Falah bin Sultan Al Hithalayn are Prince Mohammed, Prince Turki, Prince Khalid, Prince Nayif, Prince Bandar and Prince Rakan.[48]

Salman in his 30s

Prince Mohammad was his private advisor at the ministry of defense and at the Crown Prince Court.[49] Mohammad was appointed the minister of defence and head of the royal court on his father's accession to the throne in January 2015.[50] Turki bin Salman became the chairman of the Saudi Research and Marketing Group in February 2013, replacing his elder brother Faisal bin Salman.[51]

Salman was the closest brother to Crown Prince Sultan, having remained at his side during his constant illness and recovery in New York and Morocco, from 2008 to 2011.[20] Prince Sultan described him as "the prince of loyalty" in a letter sent to him.[52] Salman was also King Fahd's most trusted advisor during his reign.[53][54]

His legal counsel was William Jeffress, Jr., of US-based firm, Baker Botts LLP, in a lawsuit filed by families of victims of the 11 September terrorist attacks from 2002 to 2010.[55]


In August 2010, Salman underwent spinal surgery in the United States and remained out of the kingdom for recovery.[56] He has had one stroke and despite physiotherapy, his left arm does not work as well as his right.[57] After his appointment as Crown Prince various analysts including Simon Henderson argued that he is suffering from dementia, possibly Alzheimer's disease.[58][59]


Salman received the Lifetime Achievement Award of Al Turath Charity Foundation in the field of urban heritage in 2013.[7]



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External links[edit]

Born: 31 December 1935
Regnal titles
Preceded by
King of Saudi Arabia
Heir apparent:
Saudi Arabian royalty
Preceded by
Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by
Badr bin Saud bin Abdulaziz
Governor of Riyadh Region
Succeeded by
Sattam bin Abdulaziz
Preceded by
Sultan bin Abdulaziz
Minister of Defence
Succeeded by
Mohammad bin Salman
Preceded by
Nayef bin Abdulaziz
First Deputy Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia
Succeeded by
Muqrin bin Abdulaziz
Preceded by
Abdullah bin Abdulaziz
Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia