Salman bin Abdulaziz

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You are King Salman of Saudi Arabia. After the death of your brother, you have risen from a Crown Prince to King. This is a position that you have been groomed for since your brother ascended the throne. You have held major political offices which were designed to allow you to create a strong political base, create a global profile, become practiced in politics, and demonstrate your abilities to lead. These are all things that you have done well and often. You come to the throne as a proven man, a man whose qualities as a leader and a governor are known well. While some untested leader may have the leeway to make mistakes, you are expected to take up where your brother left off without so much as a stumble. Saudi Arabia thrives on stability and continuity. A change at the upper levels shakes the society to the very core; you must show that leadership has transferred from one capable leader to another.

Early Life

You are the son of the original King of Saudi Arabia, King Abdulaziz. When King Abdul Aziz conquered the region and formed the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, he used marriage as a tool by which to ensure the loyalties of conquered and allied peoples. Your mother Hassa bint Ahmed Al Sudairi was one of his many wives. You are one of the seven sons that this marriage produced. However, unlike other sons of your Father, you and your brothers all became very interested in politics. While your other half-brothers focused on business or religious pursuits, you and your seven brothers all focused on politics. You became known as the Sudairi Seven. This alliance of seven brothers and their sons would eventually come to form the bedrock of the Saudi court. Through working together and focusing their considerable political force, you and your six brothers were able to take many of the key political offices for yourselves and your families. With this power, you were able to control the order of ascent to the throne, and monopolize the power of the throne in Saudi Arabia.

The Saudiri Seven is an accepted fact of Saudi politics. They are not seen as a cabal or anything sinister. Rather, they are viewed as a ruling clan within the power structure of Saudi Arabia. By carefully meting out offices to their sons, the Saudiri Seven have been able to ensure that this perception would continue. However, as the base of power continues to expand, with sons and grandsons all entering into power, the concern of instability continues to grow with each new generation.

Outside of being born in Riyadh and living most of your early life inside the palace, little is known about your early life. You first entered into the political consciousness at the age of eighteen. Prior to this you were an unknown outside of royal circles. Your father provided you with the office of Deputy Governor of Riyadh. At the time, this was a minor position. In 1954, Riyadh was a small dusty capital with very little development. In the span of a year, you ascended to the position of Governor of Riyadh. You held this position until 1960. From 1960-1963, you took a brief respite from the role. In 1963, you began your time as Governor of Riyadh again and ruled Riyadh until 2011. During your decades in this office, you built Riyadh up from a small, truly insignificant capital into one of the most developed and important cities in the region, if not the world.

Riyadh also prepared you for the role of King in many ways. Riyadh is a nexus for the nation of Saudi Arabia. It is the city in which clerical, business, tribal, and royal affairs all meet. Riyadh is where most royals make their home and is the business center for the region. Here, you were forced to balance tribal, clerical, royal, and business interests. The Saudi royal family numbers in the hundreds. Your father had twenty plus children. His progeny has been just as productive. Each one of the children and spouses who enter into this family are elevated drastically in power and stature, as is their ability to create scandals and political havoc for the whole family. As Governor of Riyadh, it became your duty to control the princes and princess of the Saud family, seeing to it that transgressions were controlled and maintaining the public appearance of the Saud family. While doing this, you were also tasked with overseeing the growth of Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia is a nation comprised of various tribes, groups of several families linked by past alliances. These tribes still exist and compete for economic advantage. As Governor, you were tasked with ensuring that the family of Saudi maintained its economic edge but also did not antagonize the tribes. You had to make sure that the tribes felt that they were benefitting more from your rule more than they would from open competition. Should the tribes unite against your family, there would be nothing that you could do.

You faced similar problems with the clerical institutions. Wahabism, the particular interpretation of Sunni Islam that you follow, has been championed by your family as a way to unite the nation. By promoting this religion and the clerics who preach it, you ensure that your government will continue to receive their tacit support. The Clerics constitute one of the pillars of Saudi Arabia. In a nation as pious as Saudi Arabia, their rulings hold great sway over the populace. Should they feel under-supported it is very likely that they could select new leadership for the nation.

Being Governor of Riyadh gave you a chance to deal with all the internal issues that would face as King. You were able to establish a reputation as a pious, conservative, and intelligent leader. You are known for your ability to juggle many conflicting interests at once. You are not, by any means, a liberal. While your brother brought into existence some moderate reforms to Saudi Society, you are seen to be more conservative, religiously and politically, than he was. You are a champion of the status quo; of a system that has proven itself. It is unlikely that you will repeal any of the changes your brother made, as this would set a disturbing precedent where each king would attempt to re-make Saudi Arabia after his predecessor; it is likely that no new social reforms will be coming forth under your leadership.

Current Role

Even with your extensive experience, there are many challenges that you will face. Firstly there is your age. You were seventy-nine years old as you took the throne, and have already suffered a stroke which left one of your arms paralyzed. There are also rumors that you are suffering from the first stages of dementia. While we know the stroke happened, the rumor about dementia is just that. Still, to overcome the nation's concerns about your health and your capabilities, you must be visible and forceful in public. You must make it clear to your people that you are in charge of your faculties and your government. You have already begun to do this. In your first few weeks of office, you have reshuffled the cabinet of ministers. In a clear effort to shore up your power, you made sure that your supporters were placed into positions of power and prestige. However, you exercised restraint in your actions. You are viewed as uncorrupted, and a complete re-organization of power to benefit your own concerns would result in a backlash. You limited your re-organization to offices where there were potentially better candidates or offices which are generally turned over during a succession. Key offices like the Ministry of Oil and Ministry of Finance retained their trusted leaders. These are leadership positions where continuity and stability are central to not only internal but external views of the stability of your nation.

You have also made efforts to directly engage with the people of Saudi Arabia. You read your decrees aloud, allowing the nation to see and hear your voice. You also did something that only Saudi Arabia could, which is that you paid them off. Saudi Arabia has a vast and extremely generous welfare system. In Saudi Arabia students, the disabled, and the retired all receive generous stipends from the government. Importantly, the students are a very vocal and powerful cadre as many of them are religious students who are well regarded by the populace. You authorized two months of additional payments to be paid immediately to all people on government stipends, and to all government workers. Essentially you paid a huge swath of Saudi Arabia several thousand dollars each out of the goodness of your heart. It is likely that such a move will gain you some popularity.

You have also made it clear that you believe that democratic reforms should be placed on the back burner. While some Saudis would welcome democratic reforms, you have stated clearly that you believe that at this moment such reforms would be detrimental to the government. Because of the threat of extremism, and deep-rooted tribal and sectarian divides, you believe that democracy could be potentially destabilizing. It would also mean an end to the House of Saud as it exists today.

Your Role in Government is absolute. Unlike other Governments where a king may be a head of government or a figurehead, you are a true king. You can rule by decree. However, such direct rule results in direct responsibility. Because of this, you must be extremely careful in your rulings. The Government of Saudi Arabia is structured so that you are surrounded by able advisers who are experts in their area of study and who can instruct you in the best ways to proceed. The Majlis (legislative assembly) reviews laws and their performance, and drafts new laws and amendments for consideration. Various ministries concern themselves over issues of education, finance, defense, foreign affairs, internal governance, and development, and bring their best ideas to you for your consideration. While major decisions are left to you, the support network built around the King is designed so that he will be presented with only the most well thought out choices.

Because the King is such a high profile actor on the international stage, his words bear a great deal of weight. As King, you should be careful about speaking out. You should use your teammates to communicate with other people and test the political waters. It is possible that they may uncover potential setbacks or difficulties so that you might avoid them. They can much more easily test the reactions of key allies than you can. Once you make a statement it is generally seen as a policy point, and is much harder to back away from. Use your teammates to lay the groundwork for your own actions. When you and your teammates decide that something must be accomplished, do not be afraid to throw your weight around. You are a key ally of the United States and, though not openly, of Israel. These two nations take your words seriously. As King, you must expect your every statement to be over-analyzed as people try to guess what it is you intend for your nation. Your press releases and communiques must be well crafted. You are expected to be eloquent, clear, and thoughtful in your actions. Remember that there are rumors that you suffer from dementia. If you comport yourself as anything but a truly competent king, you can expect that your enemies will utilize this to weaken your support base.

On Israel and Palestine

Like King Abdullah before you, you believe that Israel is of key importance to Saudi Arabia. It is a bulwark against Iranian aggression and a check on both Shiite and Sunni extremism. For your nation, Israel serves almost as a lightning rod, drawing attacks and criticism of extremists away from your own nation. While no open alliance exists between your two nations, you do covertly work with Israel on points of mutual agreement. These points include the containment of the Syrian civil war, Iran, and Hezbollah. The greatest challenge to the stability of your nation is the threat of homegrown radicals. To your south, the government of Yemen has been replaced by a strict Shiite party. They stand as a direct threat to your own nation's beliefs. To the north, in Iraq, Shiite extremists fight with Sunnis to control that nation's resources. You take extremism of all types very seriously. In this fight, you see Israel as a very important resource.

However, Saudi Arabia gains a lot of its support among the pious within its borders for its support of the Palestinians. While you believe Israel is a necessary player in the Middle East, you also believe that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict needs to end. You are extremely pro-Palestine in your public addresses. You support the rights of Palestinians, stand against settlement construction, and believe that use of force by Israel is wholly unacceptable. For you, The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a massive pain in the butt. It forces a wedge between you and your economic partners and is a powerful recruiting call for extremists. You believe that the U.S and Israel must bend and come to a reasonable agreement with the Palestinians. What do you see as reasonable? Anything that Abbas is willing to agree to. While you might try to encourage Abbas to be flexible, you recognize that any agreement the Palestinians make must be seen as being made in their own best interests. You cannot be seen to be applying pressure on them for your own sake. That said, you want this conflict over. It has plagued your government since its inception. Your government is willing to support and sweeten any proposal acceptable to the Palestinians.

As the King of Saudi Arabia, you hold one of the most important positions in this simulation. You are a force for stability in your nation. This means protecting the status quo and ensuring that radicalism is kept in check. You are conservative in your religious and political beliefs, but you are practical in their application. You recognize Saudi Arabia needs to modernize but understand that it will be a generational process. When you are Salman, understand that you are playing a man of nearly 80. He is not prone to rash action or quick decisions. He is focused on creating a legacy and ensuring that his family will be entrusted with a kingdom after he departs. You must think about the long game, not momentary chances for glory.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/23/world/middleeast/salman-ascends-throne-to-become-saudi-king.html?_r=0

http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2015/01/22/world/middleeast/ap-ml-saudi-king-salman.html

http://geidi.al-monitor.com/pulse/sites/almonitor/contents/afp/2015/01/saudi-royals-politics-salman.html#

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-30945925

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2015/01/prince-salman-bin-abdul-aziz-al-saud-2015168325196385.html

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