Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (Arabic: سلمان بن عبد العزیز آل سعودSalmān ibn ‘Abd al-‘Azīz Āl Sa‘ūd Arabic pronunciation: [sæɫmæːn ibˈn ʕabˈduɫ ʕaziːz æːɫ saʕuːd]; born 31 December 1935) is a Saudi Arabian politician and royal statesman who has been King of Saudi Arabia, Prime Minister, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and head of the House of Saud since 2015.[1]

He was the Deputy Governor and later the Governor of Riyadh for 48 years from 1963 to 2011. He was then appointed Minister of Defense. 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.

His major initiatives as King include the Saudi intervention in the Yemeni Civil War, Saudi Vision 2030, and a 2017 decree allowing Saudi women to drive. His son, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, is seen as the power behind the throne,[2] and has led many reforms in Saudi Arabia.

Early life

Salman was born on 31 December 1935, and is reported to be the 25th son of Ibn Saud, the first monarch and founder of Saudi Arabia.[3] Salman and his six brothers make up the Sudairi Seven.[4][5] He was raised in the Murabba Palace.[6]

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 children.[7] He studied religion and modern science.[8]

Governor of Riyadh

Governor Salman bin Abdulaziz with Vladimir Putin in 2007

Salman was appointed deputy governor of Riyadh Province in 1954, aged 19, and held the post until 1955.[3] He was appointed the provincial governor in 1963,[7] and remained in that office until 2011.[8]

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.[9] During his governorship, Salman recruited advisors from King Saud University.[10]

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.[11] He was also the chairman of the King Abdulaziz Foundation for Research and Archives (KAFRA),[12] King Abdulaziz Museum,[13] the Prince Salman Center for Disability Research and the Prince Fahd bin Salman Charitable Society for the Care of Kidney Patients.[3]

Salman also undertook several foreign tours during his reign. In 1974, he visited Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar to strengthen Saudi Arabia's relationship with those nations. During his visit to Montreal, Canada in 1991, he inaugurated a gallery. In 1996, he was received in the Élysée 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, Brunei[14] and China.[15]

Under Salman, Riyadh 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.[3] 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."[3]

Second in line

US 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 Defense, replacing his full brother, the late Crown Prince Sultan (at Defense),[16] 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 US 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.

Crown Prince

Crown Prince Salman meeting US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, 23 April 2013

On 18 June 2012, Salman was appointed as Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia shortly after the death of his brother, Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud.[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 while 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.[9]

King of Saudi Arabia

US President Barack Obama shakes hands with King Salman, Riyadh, 27 January 2015
US Secretary of State John Kerry with Salman at Andrews Air Force Base in Camp Springs, Maryland, 3 September 2015
King Salman and Indonesian President Joko Widodo in Jakarta, 1 March 2017

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 1 am this morning." He appointed Prince Muqrin as the Crown Prince.[31]

Salman is conservative and holds traditional views with regards to political reforms and social change.[32]

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. Salman 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".[33]

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.[34]

Early reforms

One of the first things the King and his son, Mohammad bin Salman, did was 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[35] and cementing the power of the Sudairi faction, to which both princes belong.

Yemen military intervention

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.[36] 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.[37] Human Rights Watch (HRW) wrote that the Saudi-led air campaign had conducted airstrikes in apparent violation of the laws of war.[38] Human rights groups have also criticized Saudi Arabia for the alleged use of cluster bombs against Yemeni civilians.[39]

Crown Prince change

Mohammad bin Salman aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, 7 July 2015

Salman in April 2015 after becoming king appointed a full nephew, Muhammad bin Nayef, as the new Crown Prince. Furthermore, he made his young son, Mohammad bin Salman the Deputy Crown Prince. Almost all powers under the king are now concentrated in the hands of the crown prince and deputy crown prince, both of whom have the portfolio determining all security and economic development issues in Saudi Arabia.[40]


Saudi Arabia has emerged as the main group to finance and arm the rebels fighting against the Syrian government.[41] 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 al-Sham.[42][43][44]

Human rights

In February 2012, Ali Mohammed Baqir al-Nimr was arrested for participating in, and encouraging, pro-Democracy protests, when he was either 16 or 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.[45] Ali Al-Nimr has reported that he was tortured during his detention. As of 23 September 2015, the sentence awaited ratification by King Salman.[46]

In February 2015, a man from Hafar Al-Batin was sentenced to death for rejecting Islam.[47] 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'.[48]

Iran and Syria

US President Donald Trump with King Salman, Riyadh, 20 May 2017

US 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 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action 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.[49]

In January 2016, Saudi Arabia executed the prominent Saudi Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr.[50] Iran warned that the House of Saud would pay a high price for the execution of Sheikh Nimr by God's will.[50]

Panama Papers revelations

King Salman has been implicated in the Panama Papers leaks, with two companies originating in the British Virgin Islands taking mortgages in excess of US$34 million to purchase property in central London. His role has not been specified.[51][52] According to the TeleSUR, "King Salman’s net worth is estimated at US$17.0 billion."[51]

The then-Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef has also been named in association with the Papers.[53]


Salman, US President Donald Trump, and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi touching The Orb at the 2017 Riyadh summit.
King Salman with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Moscow, 5 October 2017

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.[9]

Salman and his family own a media group, including pan-Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat and Al Eqtisadiah.[54][55] Though he owns only ten percent of the Saudi Research and Marketing Group (SRMG), he is often referred by auditors as its owner.[54] He reportedly controls the organization through his son Prince Faisal,[54] 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).[56]

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.[57]


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,[58] 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."[58]

Al Jazeera referred to Salman's views reported in a 2007 US diplomatic cable.[59][60] 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."[60]

Personal life

Salman in his youth

Salman bin Abdulaziz has married three times.[61] As of 2017, he had 13 children.[62] His first wife was Sultana bint Turki Al Sudairi,[63] who died at the age of 71 in late July 2011.[64][65] She was a first cousin of Salman, being a daughter of Salman's maternal uncle Turki bin Ahmad Al Sudairi,[64] who was a former governor of the Asir Province.[66] Sultana Al Sudairi supported the Prince Fahd bin Salman Charitable Society for the Care of Kidney Patients and other charitable organizations in the country.[67] His children from this marriage are Prince Fahd, Prince Sultan, Prince Ahmed, Prince Abdulaziz, Prince Faisal and Princess Hassa (born 1974).[67]

His eldest son, Fahd bin Salman, died of heart failure at the age of 47 in July 2001.[68] His third son, Ahmad bin Salman, died after a heart attack in July 2002 at the age of 43.[69] His son, Sultan bin Salman, became the first person of royal blood, first Arab, and first Muslim to fly in outer space when he flew aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-51-G) in June 1985,[70] and Sultan bin Salman 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.[71] Faisal bin Salman is the governor of Madinah province.

His child from his second marriage with Sarah bint Faisal Al Subai'ai (divorced) is Prince Saud. His children from his third marriage with Fahda bint Falah bin Sultan Al Hathleen[72] are Prince Mohammed, Prince Turki, Prince Khalid, Prince Nayif, Prince Bandar and Prince Rakan.[73]

Prince Mohammad was his private advisor at the ministry of defense and at the Crown Prince Court.[74] Mohammad was appointed the minister of defense and head of the royal court on his father's accession to the throne in January 2015.[75] Turki bin Salman became the chairman of the Saudi Research and Marketing Group in February 2013, replacing his elder brother Faisal bin Salman.[76]

Portraits of Salman, Prince Mohammed and Ibn Saud in Jenadriyah

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.[77] Salman was also King Fahd's most trusted advisor during his reign.[78][79]

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.[80]

In August 2010, Salman underwent spinal surgery in the United States and remained out of the kingdom for recovery.[81] He has had one stroke and despite physiotherapy, his left arm does not work as well as his right.[82][83][84]

Salman suffers from mild dementia,[85] specifically Alzheimer's.[86]

US intelligence officials believe that King Salman has been kept apart from his wife Princess Fahda bint Falah Al Hathleen for several years, on the orders of their son Prince Mohammad bin Salman. [87] He was reportedly concerned that she opposed his plans for a power grab that could divide the royal family, and might have tried to prevent it. The officials interviewed set the prince placed his mother under house arrest without the king's knowledge.

Salman received the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Al-Turath Charity Foundation in the field of urban heritage in 2013.[6]

In 2017, Salman pledged US$15 million for Rohingya Muslim refugees in Bangladesh.[88]


See also


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External links

Born: 31 December 1935
Regnal titles
Preceded by
King of Saudi Arabia
Heir apparent:
Mohammad bin Salman
Saudi Arabian royalty
Preceded by
Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by
Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia
Preceded by
Badr bin Saud bin Abdulaziz
Governor of Riyadh Region
Succeeded by
Sattam bin Abdulaziz
Preceded by
Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud
Minister of Defense
Succeeded by
Mohammad bin Salman
Retrieved from "