Salman of Saudi Arabia

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"King Salman" redirects here. It is not to be confused with King Salmon.
King of Saudi Arabia
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques
Prince Salman bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud at the Pentagon April 2012.jpg
King Salman as Prince Salman in 2012
King of Saudi Arabia
Reign 23 January 2015 – present
Bay'ah 23 January 2015
Predecessor Abdullah
Heir presumptive(s) Muqrin (Removed)
Muhammad (Incumbent)
Born (1935-12-31) 31 December 1935 (age 79)
Saudi Arabia Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
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 bint Ahmad Al Sudairi
Religion Sunni Islam

Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (Arabic: سلمان بن عبد العزيز آل سعود‎, Salmān ibn ‘Abd al-‘Azīz Āl Sa‘ūd, Najdi Arabic pronunciation: [salˈmaːn ben ˈʢabd əlʢaˈziːz ʔaːl sʊˈʢuːd], Hejazi Arabic pronunciation: [salˈmaːn be̞n ˈ ʕabd alʕaˈziːz ʔaːl suˈʕuːd]; (born 31 December 1935) is the King of Saudi Arabia, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and the head of the House of Saud.[1]

He served as the Deputy Governor and then the Governor of Riyadh for 48 years from 1963 to 2011. He was appointed as Minister of Defense in 2011. He was also named the Crown Prince in 2012 following the death of his brother Nayef bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. Salman was crowned as the new King of Saudi Arabia on 23 January 2015 following the death of his half brother, King Abdullah. Among the most notable events during his ruling were Saudi Arabia's military intervention in Yemen and the 2015 Mina stampede.

Early life[edit]

Salman was born on 31 December 1935,[2] and is reported to be the 25th son of Ibn Saud.[2] Salman and his six brothers make up what is referred to as the Sudairi Seven.[3] He was raised in the Murabba Palace.[4]

Salman received his early education at the Princes' School in the capital city of Riyadh, a school established by Ibn Saud specifically to provide education for his sons and daughters.[5] He studied religion and modern science.[6]

Governor of Riyadh[edit]

Governor Salman bin Abdulaziz with Vladimir Putin in 2007

Salman was first appointed as deputy governor of Riyadh Province in 1954 when he was 19 years old and held the post until 1955.[2]

He was appointed governor of Riyadh Province on 4 February 1963.[5] His tenure lasted for forty-eight years from 1963 to 2011.[6]

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.[7] During his governorship, Salman recruited advisors from King Saud University.[8]

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.[9]

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.[10]

He was also the chairman of the King Abdulaziz Foundation for Research and Archives (KAFRA),[11] King Abdulaziz Museum,[12] the Prince Salman Center for Disability Research and the Prince Fahd bin Salman Charitable Society for the Care of Kidney Patients.[2]

Salman also undertook several foreign tours during his reign. In 1974, he visited Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar to strengthen Saudi Arabia's relationship with the nations. During his visit to Montreal, Canada, in 1991, he inaugurated a gallery. In 1996, he was received in Elysee Palace in Paris by the then French president Jacques Chirac. The same year he toured Bosnia and Herzegovina to give donations to the Muslim citizens of the country. Being a part of an Asian tour in 1998, Salman visited Pakistan, Japan, and Brunei and China.[13]

Under Salman, the province became "one of the richest cities in the Middle East" and an important place for trade and commerce. There were also infrastructural advances including schools, universities and sports stadiums.[2] About the province he said

"Every village or town in the Riyadh Region is dear to me, and holds a special place in my heart.... I witnessed every step taken by the city of Riyadh, and for this reason it is difficult for me to think about being far away from Riyadh."[2]

Second in line (Second Deputy Prime Minister)[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,[14] 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.[15]

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.[16][17] 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.[18]

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.[19][20] 2013 saw Saudi military spending climb to $67bn, overtaking that of the UK, France and Japan to place fourth globally.[21] 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.

First in Line (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.[22][23] Prince Salman was also made First deputy prime minister.[24] 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.[24] 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.[25] They also argued that, like King Abdullah, Salman focused mainly on economic improvement rather than political change.[25]

On 27 August 2012, the Royal Court announced that Salman was in charge of state affairs whilst King Abdullah was out of the country.[26] Prince Salman launched a Twitter account on 23 February 2013.[27] In September 2012, Salman was named as the deputy chairman of the military service council.[28] He is a strong advocate for philanthropy in poor Muslim nations such as Somalia, Sudan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.[7]

King of Saudi Arabia[edit]

U.S. President Barack Obama, joined by Salman, shakes hands with members of the Saudi Royal Family, Riyadh, January 2015
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry with Salman in Riyadh, 7 May 2015

On 23 January 2015, Salman aged 79, succeeded as king after his half-brother Abdullah died of pneumonia at the age of 90. The newly appointed king issued a statement which read "His Highness Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and all members of the family and the nation mourn Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, who passed away at exactly 1am this morning." He appointed Prince Muqrin as the Crown Prince.[29]

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.[30]

After coming to power, Salman reshuffled the cabinet on 30 January 2015. Khalid bin Ali bin Abdullah al-Humaidan was made the intelligence chief. Prince Bandar bin Sultan was removed from his post in the security council and the adviser to the monarch was also removed as were the former monarch's sons Turki as governor of Riyadh and Mishaal as governor of Mecca. Ali al-Naimi remained the minister of petroleum and mineral resources, as did Saud al-Faisal of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ibrahim Al-Assaf as finance minister. He also "gave a bonus of two months' salary to all Saudi state employees and military personnel", including pensioners and students while also asking citizens to "not forget me in your prayers".[31]

In February 2015, he received Prince Charles during his six-day tour in the Middle East. They "exchanged cordial talks and reviewed bilateral relations" between the countries.[32]

In February 2015 estimates that the king's post-coronation giveaway will ultimately cost more than $32 billion (more than the entire annual budget for Nigeria, which has Africa’s largest economy). These included grants to professional associations, literary and sports clubs; investments in water and electricity; and bonuses worth two months of salary to all government employees, soldiers, pensioners and students on government stipends at home and abroad. Some private companies followed suit with comparable bonuses for their Saudi employees, putting another few billion dollars into people’s pockets. Some of the government spending will come over years, but most will hit the Saudi market this month, including the bonuses.[33]

Early reforms[edit]

Among the first things the King and his son did, were to streamline the government bureaucracy. On the death of King Abdullah, there were as many as eleven government secretariats, and all of these were abolished and reconstituted as only two, the Council of Political and Security Affairs (CPSA), headed by Deputy Crown prince Mohammed bin Nayef, and the Council for Economic and Development Affairs (CEDA), headed by the Secretary General of the royal Court Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who were given free rein to completely reorganize the government[34] and cementing the power of the Suderi faction, to which both princes belong.

Yemen military intervention[edit]

In March 2015, the king ordered the bombing of Yemen and military intervention against the Shia Houthis and forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was deposed in the 2011 uprising.[35] He first put together a coalition of ten Sunni Muslim countries. Code-named Operation Decisive Storm, this was the first time the Saudi air force had launched airstrikes against another country since the 1990–91 Gulf War.

According to Farea Al-Muslim, direct war crimes have been committed during the conflict; for example, an IDP camp was hit by a Saudi airstrike.[36] Human Rights Watch (HRW) wrote that the Saudi-led air campaign had conducted airstrikes in apparent violation of the laws of war.[37] Human Rights groups have also criticized Saudi Arabia for the alleged use of cluster bombs against Yemeni civilians.[38]

New Crown Prince and new Deputy Crown Prince[edit]

In April 2015 King Salman appointed a nephew as new heir-presumptive and made his young son second in line to rule. By making Interior Minister Mohammed bin Nayef, 55, crown prince and Defence Minister Mohammed bin Salman, 30, deputy crown prince, King Salman has effectively decided the line of succession for decades to come in the world's top oil exporter. The announcement means the kingship will pass to a new generation for the first time since 1953, when the throne passed from the founder of the dynasty, King Abdulaziz Ibn Saud, to the first of six of his sons who have held it since. Almost all powers under the king are now concentrated in the hands of the pair, who each chair committees determining all security and economic development issues in Saudi Arabia, and have led Riyadh's month-old campaign of air strikes in Yemen. In another big shift, Salman replaced veteran Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, who had served in the role since October 1975, with the kingdom's Washington ambassador Adel al-Jubeir, the first non-royal to hold the post.[39]


Saudi Arabia has emerged as the main group to finance and arm the rebels fighting against the Syrian government.[40] As of 2015, Saudi Arabia is openly backing the Army of Conquest, an umbrella rebel group that reportedly includes an al-Qaeda linked al-Nusra Front and another Salafi coalition known as Ahrar ash-Sham.[41][42][43]

Human rights[edit]

In February 2012, Ali Mohammed Baqir al-Nimr was arrested for participating in, and encouraging, pro-Democracy protests, when he was 17 years old. In May 2014, Ali Al-Nimr was sentenced to be crucified, despite the minimum age for execution being 18, when a crime is committed. Ali Al-Nimr has reported that he was tortured during his detention. As of 23 September 2015, the sentence awaited ratification by King Salman.

In February 2015, a man from Hafar Al-Batin was sentenced to death for rejecting Islam.[44] In June 2015, Saudi Arabia's Supreme Court upheld the sentence of 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison for Raif Badawi, a Saudi Arabian blogger who was imprisoned in 2012 after being charged for 'insulting Islam'.[45]

Iran and Syria[edit]

U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter met with the King and his Arabian military counterpart, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, at Jeddah to answer regional security concerns in the Kingdom and the Gulf states over lifting Iranian economic and conventional military sanctions as the July 14 Vienna accord outlines. The King has misgivings over the deal since it would increase the regional power of Iran especially in the proxy conflicts in Syria, Yemen, and elsewhere.[46]


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.[7]

Salman and his family own a media group, including pan-Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat and Al Eqtisadiah.[47][48] Though he owns only ten percent of the Saudi Research and Marketing Group (SRMG), he is often referred by auditors as its owner.[47] He reportedly controls the organization through his son Prince Faisal,[47] 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).[49]

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.[50]


In November 2002, in reference to charitable organizations accused of terrorism (e.g. al-Haramain Foundation, Saudi High Commission for Relief of Bosnia and Herzegovina), Salman stated that he had personally taken part in the activities of such organizations,[51] 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."[51]

Al Jazeera referred to Salman's views reported in a 2007 U.S. diplomatic cable.[52][53] 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."[53]

Personal life[edit]

Salman in his youth

Salman bin Abdulaziz has married three times.[54] His first wife was Sultana bint Turki Al Sudairi,[55] who died at the age of 71 in late July 2011.[56][57] She was a daughter of Salman's maternal uncle, Turki bin Ahmad Al Sudairi,[56] who was a former governor of the Asir Province.[58] Sultana Al Sudairi supported the Prince Fahd bin Salman Charitable Society for the Care of Kidney Patients and other charitable organizations in the country.[59] His children from this marriage are Prince Fahd, Prince Ahmed, Prince Sultan, Prince Abdulaziz, Prince Faisal and Princess Hassa (born 1974).[59]

His eldest son, Fahd bin Salman, died of heart failure at the age of 47 in July 2001.[60] His second son, Ahmad bin Salman, died after a heart attack in July 2002 at the age of 43.[61] 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[62] 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.[63] 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.[64]

Salman in his 30s

Prince Mohammad was his private advisor at the ministry of defense and at the Crown Prince Court.[65] Mohammad was appointed the minister of defence and head of the royal court on his father's accession to the throne in January 2015.[66] Turki bin Salman became the chairman of the Saudi Research and Marketing Group in February 2013, replacing his elder brother Faisal bin Salman.[67]

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.[18] Prince Sultan described him as "the prince of loyalty" in a letter sent to him.[68] Salman was also King Fahd's most trusted advisor during his reign.[69][70]

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.[71]


In August 2010, Salman underwent spinal surgery in the United States and remained out of the kingdom for recovery.[72] He has had one stroke and despite physiotherapy, his left arm does not work as well as his right.[73][74][75]


Salman received the Lifetime Achievement Award of Al-Turath Charity Foundation in the field of urban heritage in 2013.[4]



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External links[edit]

Born: 31 December 1935
Regnal titles
Preceded by
King of Saudi Arabia
Heir apparent:
Muhammad bin Nayef
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
Second Deputy Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia
Succeeded by
Muqrin bin Abdulaziz
First Deputy Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia
Preceded by
Abdullah bin Abdulaziz
Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia