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The Mysterious Saudi Prince Leading The War In Yemen

 

He is the architect and very public face behind Saudi Arabia’s boldest military campaign in nearly 100 years. But Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the country’s young, newly-minted defense minister, remains a virtually unknown figure at home and abroad.

With a swift and sudden rise to power two months ago, the machinations of Mohammed, King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz’s favored son, remain elusive and his skill untested, even as he leads an aggressive—and escalating—Arab coalition intervention against the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. In just a week of fighting, he’s become a poster boy for the Saudi-led military campaign, known as “Operation Decisive Storm,” as well as an embodiment of his country’s recent shift toward a more hawkish foreign policy in the region.

Yet he is a man whose youth and inexperience has left him almost invisible until now. Even the prince’s age is a matter of speculation and debate. Some peg him as young as 27. Others say he could be as old as 35.

“He is a mystery,” says Emile Hokayem, a Middle East analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. More than a half-dozen other analysts and Middle East experts interviewed by Vocativ paint the prince in equally ambiguous terms. 

As questions about Prince Mohammed grow, at least one thing is clear, observers say. He’s emerged as one of the most influential players in the House of Saud, and likely the youngest to yield any real influence. After ascending to the Saudi throne in January, his father, King Salman, moved swiftly to consolidate power, appointing the prince to three key cabinet posts. He made Mohammed defense minister and head of a newly-formed economic council. He also placed the prince in the role of chief of the royal court, the equivalent of White House chief of staff.

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