Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdulazizal-Saud: Hardline heir to the Saudi throne

 

Although once described as impish in private, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia spent a lifetime at the head of the country's security apparatus, a stern opponent of all things radical, liberal, reformist or female. Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, heir to the throne of Saudi Arabia, was at the heart of its security for decades, opposing not only security threats but also any serious moves towards reform.

As Interior Minister he wielded huge influence through the policing and intelligence agencies, once describing himself as the country's "first soldier". He had a reputation for ruthlessness.

Mourners at his funeral, in the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca were led by his half-brother, King Abdullah, who in October last year designated him as Crown Prince and heir to the throne of the oil-rich nation. Abdullah, who is 88, has yet to designate a new Crown Prince, but his successor will certainly come from within the Saud family, which is enormous in terms of size, power and wealth. International interest is now focussed on whether the successor will be drawn from the same generation, or whether a younger family member will be nominated.

The Arab Spring has yet to impact greatly on the Saudi kingdom, inpart because Nayef moved so rigorously against any stirrings of opposition. The question now is whether therulers can maintain control following Nayef's death and Abdullah's eventual departure.

Nayef was born in around 1933, a year after Saudi Arabia had come into being as a state under his father, King Abdulaziz Ibn Saud, who through a mixof warfare and diplomacy had united the Bedouin tribes and gained control over the holy Islamic sites of Mecca and Medina. Nayef was one of the "Sudairi Seven", sons his father produced with his favourite wife, Hassa bint Ahmed al Sudairi. He was educated at the "Princes' School" in Riyadh, where religious teachers impressed on their royal pupils the importance of the Koran and Islamic law.

The beliefs Nayef absorbed there stayed with him all his life, meaning that he was closer than most of his brothers to the Wahhabi religious establishment which conferred legitimacy on the royal family. The deeply conservative Wahhabi ideology includes strict segregation of the sexes, enforced prayer times and capital punishments which include beheadings.

His career took off rapidly. Before he was 20 he had become governor of the Riyadh region before he was switched to the security world, quickly joining the cabinet as Interior Minister, a post he held for many years. In this role he gave the clergy considerable scope to impose strict conservative laws.

He proved a reasonably able functionary, adept at installing his supporters in important posts and tightly controlling a number of security and police agencies. A US diplomatic cable which emerged through Wikileaks described him as "elusive, ambiguous, pragmatic, unimaginative, shrewd and outspoken."

He drew criticism, however, when his supposedly all-pervasive security apparatus failed to prevent militants taking over the Grand Mosque in 1979 for a siege which lasted two weeks. But his harsh clampdown which followed helped to restore his hard-line reputation as a strongman.

His clampdowns were directed not only against extreme element but also against liberal opinion and campaigners for political reforms. He is said to have responded to pleas for change with the forbidding phrase: "What we won by the sword, we will keep by the sword."

In the Wikileaks material he was described as "a firm authoritarian at heart" who defined his role as "purging aberrant ideas, promoting a vision for Saudi society under the slogan of 'intellectual security'."While, according to the American report, King Abdullah favoured dialogue and the tolerance of differences, this was not Nayef's way.

He seriously displeased Washington after the 9/11 New York attacks by initially refusing to accept that any Saudi nationals were involved, instead alleging that the incident was the work of Jews. In fact 15 of the 19 hijackers had Saudi connections, but it was more than a year before he acknowledged this.

The US also complained that he was reluctant to co-operate in moves against al-Qa'ida. Nayef snapped out of his initial state of denial, however, when a terrorist campaign was launched in Saudi Arabia itself; attacks on oil installations and foreigners took place berween 2003 and 2006.

Nayef waged a three-year war against the bombers, taking personal charge of what the former US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Charles Freeman,described as a "brutally efficient" counter-terror campaign. Hundreds ofsuspects were rounded up with scant regard for human rights. Within three years al-Qa'ida elements are saidto have been eradicated from the country; many fled to Yemen, with Nayefassisting the authorities there against them. All this enhanced Saudi Arabia's standing in the international community, greatly improving relations with the US.

Unsurprisingly, Nayef viewed the Arab Spring as a potential major menace to his family's power, arresting demonstrators whom he denounced as "evil people who want to make the kingdom a place for chaos". The Saudis were helpful to other regimes who faced unrest, sending troops to Bahrain to help deal with protests there.

Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, politician: born Ta'if, Saudi Arabia 1933; married several times (c. 10 children); died Geneva 16 June 2010.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Phillips Idowu, Stella McCartney and Jessica Ennis
fashionMcCartney to continue designing Team GB Olympics kit until 2016
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
Farah returns to the track with something to prove
Commonwealth games
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism