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How will King Salman’s removal of top military leadership affect the Saudi-Yemen conflict?

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Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has replaced the top military leadership and made new appointments on February 27, 2018 and promoted some younger officials in economic and security roles, the Saudi Press Agency reported. 

The King has terminated both the commander of air defenses and the military chief of staff and assigned new leaders. This decision was made on the recommendation of the defense minister, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Read more: Iran and Saudi Arabia revisit their strategies

The Saudi government told NBC News, “These appointments were part of a normal rotation in line with the new Ministry of Defense development plan. While some senior officers who had reached retirement age left the service, others were promoted or moved to newly created positions.”

Contrarily, some political analysts viewed shake-ups in the country are as the result of frustration with the 3-year long Yemen civil war against the Houthis supported by Iran. Here the question arises whether this replacement is going to bring any changes in Saudi Arabia’s policy towards Yemen or will the policy remain same? It is yet to been seen whether the current replacement of Chief of Army Staff, General Abdul Rahman bin Saleh al-Bunyan with Fayyad al-Ruwaili will play a constructive role to end civil war in Yemen or not.

Vision 2030 is a comprehensive strategy aiming at transforming the country economically and socially and to explore new ways for revenue resources other than oil.

Some other significant appointments were also issued including some mayoral posts and a new undersecretary of the Ministry of Interior for security affairs. Moreover, a woman, Tamadur bint Youssef al-Ramah was appointed as deputy minister of labor and social development.

Prince Turki bin Talal was named deputy governor of Asir province. The prince is the brother of Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, who was arrested in the government’s anti-corruption move.

Some political analysts see these replacements as an effort to promote youngsters, who will be giving their loyalty to the Crown Prince and promote his Vision 2030. Vision 2030 is a comprehensive strategy aiming at transforming the country economically and socially and to explore new ways for revenue resources other than oil.

Read more: Vision 2030 vs Saudi ultra-conservatives

The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammad bin Salman is believed to be behind various recent changes in the country. For instance, dozens of prominent Saudi notables; princes, ministers and billionaires have been jailed in Riyadh’s five star Ritz-Carlton hotel on charges of corruption. The replacements of the top military leadership are also part of the Crown Prince’s initiatives, which have been demonstrating his desire for change from the country’s traditional society. Saudi intervention in Yemen crises was also his initiative.

Saudi Arabia and eight other, mostly Sunni Arab states began an air campaign aimed at restoring Mr. Hadi’s government. The Saudi-led coalition received logistical and intelligence support from the US, UK and France. Three years on, the Saudi intervention in Yemen is still on going. The Yemen conflict had resulted in a humanitarian disaster and cost Saudi Arabia a lot of money.

Read more: Saudi Arabia announces $2 billion bailout for Yemen government

Strategically Yemen is important because it lies on the Bab al-Mandab strait, a narrow waterway linking the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden, through which much of the world’s oil shipments pass.

There are above 3 million people who have been forced to flee from their homes in the past three years, including 2 million who remain displaced. Around 75% of the population of Yemen, a total 22.2 million people, are in need of humanitarian assistance, including 11.3 million people in dire need who urgently require immediate assistance to survive – an increase of 1 million since June 2017. According to the UN Human Rights Council, “civilians have repeatedly been the victims of ‘unrelenting violations of international humanitarian law.’”  How these new appointments unfold Saudi Arabia policies towards Yemen is yet to be seen. 

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