02/27/2018, 17.56
SAUDI ARABIA

Riyadh sacks military commanders, opens barracks to women

King Salman signed the decree replacing the ground forces and air defence chiefs. The young and powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is behind the decision. Among the reasons is the unsuccessful military campaign in Yemen. A brother of purge victim Bin Talal was promoted to deputy governor.

Riyadh (AsiaNews) – In a sudden and unexpected move, Saudi Arabia sacked its top military commanders.

In a series of late-night royal decrees, King Salman removed the Armed Forces chief of staff as well as the heads of the ground forces and air defences, the official Saudi Press Agency reported. No reason was given.

According to analysts and experts, behind the king’s signature lies the hand of the powerful Crown Prince, 32-year-old Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), who has used an all-out fight against corruption to secure absolute power by eliminating or browbeating possible rivals and adversaries.

MBS has been able to replace “enemy" politicians and governors and has had scores of princes and billionaires arrested. The story ended only recently, when the detainees paid billions to be released.

Another reason for the sackings is Saudi Arabia’s disastrous brutal war in Yemen that is already in its third year and has caused thousands of civilian deaths, including children.

The war, which is proxy clash with Shia Iran, is proving to be catastrophic, splitting the country in two and favouring the rise of jihadist groups.

As the war turned against the kingdom and costs became unsustainable domestically, MBS was driven to change military leaders.

Among the victims of the purge is General Abdul Rahman bin Saleh al-Bunyan. He was replaced by Fayyad bin Hamed at Ruwayli, who thus becomes the new Chief of Staff. Many other army officers have already been appointed to replace those removed.

One of those who have benefited is Prince Turki bin Talal, who was appointed the new deputy governor of the province of Asir.

He is the brother of the famous businessman and billionaire Al-Walid bin Talal, one of the richest and most influential men in the kingdom, and one of the most prominent figures to be arrested last November in the government’s anti-corruption crackdown.

According to some sources, the businessman is still closely monitored and "not completely free".

Along with the purge and the silent revolution at the top of power, Saudi Arabia is also seeing a slow opening for women.

After letting them into stadiums for first time, lifting their driving ban and opening some political and economic positions, women will now be able to join the army.

Under a recent a royal decree, women will be able to apply for the positions with the rank of solider in the provinces of Riyadh, Makkah, al-Qassim and Madinah.

Women will not be allowed in combat units, but they will be able to work in security and anti-terrorism.

Candidates must be Saudi citizens, of good behaviour, between the ages of 25 and 35, and have a high school diploma.

The women and their male guardians – usually a husband, father, brother or son – must also have a place of residence in the same province as the job's location. Male guardianship of women is a source of controversy in the country.

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