Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud
Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud is the current King of Saudi Arabia and the de jure head of state and government, ascending to the throne after the death of his half-brother Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud. While he maintains power as King, many argue that Mohammed bin Salman is the true power-holder of Saudi Arabia. He is by definition the head of the House of Saud as well.
King of Saudi Arabia
In March 2015, the king ordered the bombing of Yemen and military intervention against the Shia Houthis and forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was deposed in the 2011 uprising. He first put together a coalition of ten Sunni Muslim countries. Code-named Operation Decisive Storm, this was the first time the Saudi Air Force had launched airstrikes against another country since the 1990–91 Gulf War.
According to Farea Al-Muslim, direct war crimes have been committed during the conflict; for example, an IDP camp was hit by a Saudi airstrike. Human Rights Watch (HRW) wrote that the Saudi-led air campaign had conducted airstrikes in apparent violation of the laws of war. Human rights groups have also criticized Saudi Arabia for the alleged use of cluster bombs against Yemeni civilians.
In February 2012, Ali Mohammed Baqir al-Nimr was arrested for participating in, and encouraging, pro-democracy protests, when he was 16 or 17 years old. In May 2014, Ali Al-Nimr was sentenced to be executed, despite the minimum age for execution being 18 when a crime is committed. Ali Al-Nimr has reported that he was tortured during his detention. As of 23 September 2015, the sentence awaited ratification by King Salman.
In February 2015, a man from Hafar Al-Batin was sentenced to death for rejecting Islam. In June 2015, Saudi Arabia's Supreme Court upheld the sentence of 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison for Raif Badawi, a Saudi Arabian blogger who was imprisoned in 2012 after being charged for 'insulting Islam'.
US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter met with the King and his Arabian military counterpart, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, at Jeddah to answer regional security concerns in the Kingdom and the Gulf states over lifting Iranian economic and conventional military sanctions as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action outlines. The King has misgivings over the deal since it would increase the regional power of Iran especially in the proxy conflicts in Syria, Yemen, and elsewhere. In January 2016, Saudi Arabia executed the prominent Saudi Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr. Iran warned that the House of Saud would pay a high price for the execution of Sheikh Nimr by God's will.
Saudi Arabia has emerged as the main group to finance and arm the rebels fighting against the Syrian government. Saudi Arabia openly backed the Army of Conquest, an umbrella rebel group that reportedly included an al-Qaeda linked al-Nusra Front and another Salafi coalition known as Ahrar al-Sham.
In May 2019, leaders of Gulf and Arab states held two emergency summits in Mecca to present a united front to Iran.[ Salman accused Iran of threatening global oil supplies and shipping at a meeting of Arab leaders that called on the international community to confront Tehran following attacks on shipping and rising tensions in the oil rich region. Salman said "what the Iranian regime is doing, from intervening in regional countries’ affairs and developing its nuclear program, threatening global maritime traffic and global oil supplies, is a blatant violation of the treaties and principles of the United Nations." He urged the international community should "use all means to deter this regime."
King Salman has been implicated in the Panama Papers leaks, with two companies originating in the British Virgin Islands taking mortgages in excess of US$34 million to purchase property in central London. His role has not been specified. According to the TeleSUR, "King Salman’s net worth is estimated at US$17.0 billion." The then-Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef has also been named in association with the Papers.