Saudi king sacks military chiefs in major shake-up

Saudi King Salman has sacked the military chief of staff and a host of other top commanders, state media said on Monday, in a major shake-up of the defence establishment. The monarch also replaced the heads of the ground forces and air defences, as well as senior officials at the interior ministry, in a series of late-night royal decrees.

No official reason was given for the sweeping overhaul, but it comes as the Saudi-led coalition’s military intervention in Yemen against Iran-aligned Houthi rebels nears the end of its third year. “Termination of the services of General Abdul Rahman bin Saleh al-Bunyan, Chief of Staff,” the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said, adding that Fayyad al-Ruwaili had been appointed as his replacement.

Al-Bunyan’s sacking came after he inaugurated a major exhibition this week by the Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI), the state-owned defence company, which illustrates ongoing efforts to reform the sector.

“These Saudi royal decrees appear to be part of the kingdom’s national defence strategy,” Theodore Karasik, a senior advisor at the consultancy Gulf States Analytics, told AFP. “A military transformation is under way in Saudi Arabia.

The changes come on the heels of the SAMI exhibition, which is a critical part of the Prince Mohammed’s reform plan to create an indigenous defence program.”

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