Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud
Deputy Crown Prince
Second Deputy Prime Minister
Minister of Interior
Prince Mohammed bin Naif bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (Born: 1959) is the deputy crown prince and second deputy prime minister and the minister of interior of Saudi Arabia. He is also the chairman of the new Council for Political and Security Affairs. As deputy crown prince, he is second in line to the throne of Saudi Arabia after his half-uncle, Crown Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. He is a member of the House of Saud and a nephew of King Salman.
Prince Muhammad was born in Jeddah on 30 August 1959. He is the second eldest son and one of ten children of Prince Nayef. Prince Saud is his older brother. Their mother is Al Jawhara bint Abdulaziz bin Musaed Al Jiluwi who is a member of the Al Jiluwi branch of the House of Saud.
Muhammad bin Nayef studied in the United States, took some classes at Lewis & Clark College, but did not graduate. He attended the FBI‘s security courses from 1985 to 1988, and was trained at Scotland Yard‘s anti-terrorism units from 1992 to 1994.
Muhammad bin Nayef was appointed assistant interior minister for security affairs in 1999. He had been a businessman before this appointment. He was widely credited for the success of the Ministry’s counter-terrorism program. He was also regarded as the architect of the government’s counter-insurgency program. He also served as the director of civil defense during his term as assistant minister. He was considered to be an effective assistant interior minister.
In 2004, he was appointed to the rank of minister, becoming number two at the ministry of interior. In October 2010, he warned the U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser of the 2010 cargo plane bomb plot. After the appointment of Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz Al Saud as interior minister upon the death of Prince Nayef in July 2012, Prince Muhammad became deputy interior minister.
In November 2009, King Abdullah appointed Muhammad as a member of the influential Supreme Economic Council of Saudi Arabia. This move was regarded as approval of the increase in then-Crown Prince Nayef‘s power by King Abdullah. On the other hand, this appointment enables Prince Mohammed to extend his influence over the government’s economy policy.
On 5 November 2012, King Abdullah issued a royal decree and dismissed Prince Ahmed, minister of interior, from his office and appointed Prince Muhammad as minister. He became the tenth interior minister of Saudi Arabia. Prince Muhammad took the oath of office in front of King Abdullah on 6 November 2012. His appointment was not regarded very positively by human rights activists due to Prince Muhammad’s professional experience as a tough enforcer who imprisoned thousands of suspected troublemakers in Saudi Arabia. However, he is regarded as less corrupt and less likely to personally abuse his power in comparison to other senior princes of his generation.
Prince Muhammad met with David Cameron, British Premier, in January 2013. Then he met with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C., on 14 January 2013. They discussed issues of security and regional developments. In late January 2013, interior minister Prince Muhammad announced that Saudi women would be allowed to work at the directorate.
In February 2014, Prince Muhammad was made responsible for Syria, replacing Bandar bin Sultan, then intelligence chief of Saudi Arabia. Muhammad has been assisted in this effort by Prince Mutaib bin Abdullah, the minister of the Saudi Arabian National Guard.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki reportedly accused Saudi Arabia of playing a negative role in Syria, Iraq and other countries, saying “They are attacking Iraq, through Syria and in a direct way, and they announced war on Iraq, as they announced it on Syria, and unfortunately it is on a sectarian and political basis.”
On 23 January 2015 it was announced that King Salman had appointed Muhammad bin Nayef as deputy crown prince. The announcement reportedly helped calm fears of dynastic instability over the line of succession. Thus, Prince Muhammad becomes the first of his generation to be officially in line for the throne.
In addition to his other posts Prince Muhammad was named the chair of the Council for Political and Security Affairs which was established on 29 January 2015.
Mohammed bin Nayef, unlike most of the royal family, actively talks to the media. Concerning the struggle against terrorism, he adopts a policy of the iron fist like his father, Prince Nayef. He, and other decision-making elites, believe terrorism must be treated as a form of crime and fought with ruthless policing methods. Walid Jumblatt described Mohammed bin Nayef as the Saudi equivalent of General Ashraf Rifi, former director-general of Lebanon‘s Internal Security Forces.
Mohammed bin Nayef was commended by Western intelligence agencies for Saudi Arabia’s counterterrorism programs. He called for a “security channel” with the United States to facilitate information exchange. He firmly supported U.S. President Barack Obama in his opposition to the release of detainee interrogation photographs. He thought that Yemen was a “dangerous failed state” and becoming a serious threat to Saudi Arabia. He further believed that Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh was losing control. He suggested a strategy of directly working with Yemeni tribes, condemning terrorism.
He thought that establishing cooperation with Pakistan in regard to Afghanistan required cooperating with Pakistan. He praised General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani as a “good man”. He voiced his concerns concerning Iran’s nuclear program. He defers foreign policy issues to the King. After his appointment as interior minister, U.S. diplomats argued that he is “the most pro-American minister in the Saudi Cabinet“.
The Economist described Prince Muhammad as energetic and low-key, and stated that he was one of the candidates for the throne when the line of succession passes to the grandsons of King Abdulaziz. He was also considered to be one of the possible contenders after his father’s death in June 2012. In 2011, Michael Hayden reported that Prince Muhammad was the world’s fifth most powerful defenders.
Mohammed bin Nayef escaped four assassination attempts unhurt. The third attempt was on 27 August 2009. Mohammed bin Nayef was slightly injured by Abdullah Hassan Al Aseery (Al Asiri), a suicide bomber linked to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Al Aseery spoke to Muhammad bin Nayef a few days prior to the bombing and expressed a desire to turn himself in as part of the country’s terrorist rehabilitation program. This was an apparent ploy to get admitted to the Prince’s palace. Al Aseery is believed to have traveled to Jeddah from Yemen‘s province, Marib. During Ramadan, Al Aseery waited in line at the Prince’s Jeddah home as a “well-wisher”. He exploded a suicide bomb, killing himself, but only slightly injuring Mohammed bin Nayef, who was protected from the full force of the blast by Al Aseery’s body. Muhammad bin Nayef appeared on state television with a bandage around two of his fingers on his left hand. He stated, “I did not want him to be searched, but he surprised me by blowing himself up. However, this will only increase my determination to fight terrorism in the kingdom”. In the attack, an explosive device hidden inside the body was used. These are commonly known as a surgically implanted improvised explosive device, or as a ‘Body Cavity Bomb’ (BCB).
This was the first assassination attempt against a royal family member since 2003, when Saudi Arabia faced a sharp uptick in Al Qaeda-linked attacks. The last assassination attempt against Prince Mohammed was in August 2010.
Mohammed bin Nayef is the son-in-law of Sultan bin Abdulaziz and he has two daughters: Sara and Lulu.