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Analysts See Shift in New Saudi Defense Leadership

Saudi National Guard military paradeSome Middle East defense industry and policy watchers have noted Saudi Arabia’s gradual shift to a more moderate set of defense leaders amid a kingdom that is preparing for a changing of the guard, Defense News reported Sunday.

Awad Mustafa writes the reshuffle in the military top brass is just one of many indicators as the country continues to reassess its foreign and defense policies to reflect new realities.

He noted that some observers say the reorganization is not likely to either expedite or endanger any defense contracts with the kingdom.

Matthew Hedges, Middle East military analyst from the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, said a close look at the revamp strategy shows an increasing trend toward appointments closely related to King Abdullah.

“Starting with the appointment of Prince Mutaib (bin Abdullah) to minister of National Guard, a trend is occurring within the region where high-level allies of the ruling monarch and monarchs-to-be are transitioning from military to civil organizations,” Hedges said.

“Having seen the utilization of military power against regimes in the Middle East, the absence of external enemies is turning the use of militaries within the borders of (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries,” he added.

Political analyst Abdel Khaleq Abdullah, professor of political science at the United Arab Emirates University, also cited Syrian unrest as a factor in hardliners seeking moderates within the Saudi government to “realign their policies.”

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