Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud was born in 1933 in Taif, Saudi Arabia. He is believed to be 77/78 years of age. He is the First Deputy Prime Minister as well as the long time Minister of Interior. He is a half-brother of King Abdullah and one of the five surviving members of the Sudairi Seven.
As a young boy, Prince Nayef was educated at “The Princes School” at the hands of senior ulema (religious leaders). He is widely read in the areas of politics, security and diplomacy.
His was appointed to his first official position in 1953 at the age of 20 as the Governor of Riyadh. From 1954 to 1970 he served as the Deputy Minister of Interior. In 1970 King Faisal promoted him to Minister of State for Internal Affairs.
King Faisal was assassinated in 1975. As a result then Minister of Interior Prince Fahd became Crown Prince and Prince Nayef replaced Fahd as Minister of Interior.
In December 1994 with the collaboration of Prince Turki, head of Saudi’s Intelligence Service, Prince Nayef ordered hundreds of terrorism related arrests.
It was Prince Nayef, in November 2001, issued all women in Saudi Arabia their own identity card. Women were previously registered under their husband’s or father’s name.
In April 2001, in an unprecedented move, he went to Iran as the Saudi envoy.
After the September 11 attacks he received much US criticism as Interior Minister for not seeming to understand and take sufficient action against extremists.
Between 2003 -2006 he led Saudi Arabia’s confrontations against Al-Quaeda attacks in his homeland against expatriate housing compounds, oil infrastructure and industrial facilities.
However in March 2011 during internal protests in Saudi Arabia 200 citizens who wanted to receive information on their imprisoned relatives were denied meetings with Nayef.
Prince Nayef has placed Minister of Interior personnel in all Saudi embassies abroad. The Ministry of Interior has become one of the most influential ministries in the Kingdom. Nayef is considered the most influential of the Sudairi seven.
In March 2009 Nayef became Saudi Arabia’s Second Deputy Prime Minister which expanded his influence in Saudi domestic policy and allowed him to participate in the development of foreign policy. He chaired many Cabinet meetings when Prince Sultan and King Abdullah were not available. In November 2010 he undertook all Hajj related responsibilities.
On the personal side Prince Nayef has been an active philanthropist with aid to Palestines, Indonesians and Pakistanis.
He has married three times although he divorced his first wife. His third wife, Princess Maha claimed diplomatic immunity in June 2009 while in France where she ran up significant bills which she did not pay.
Prince Nayef is known for his solid relations with the Kingdom’s religious elite and is believed to oppose reforms that could liberalize the ultra-conservative Islamic nation.
He is known for his suspicion and mistrust of Saudi Arabia’s arch-rival Iran, and has pushed for hard line policies towards the Shia nation.
Critics have accused Prince Nayef of targeting democracy and human rights activists while neglecting, until recent years, the rise of Islamic radicalism in the country.
Saudis however have shown support and appreciation for the strongman persona that Nayef reflects due to public perceptions that he can deliver on national security.
Diplomats in Riyadh say Nayef has described education as the key to Saudi Arabia’s future, echoing a line from Abdullah. They said he has said little about political reforms, women’s rights or other contentious issues.
An October 2009 diplomatic cable from the US embassy in Riyadh, obtained by WikiLeaks, described Nayef as a “a conservative pragmatist convinced that security and stability are imperative.”
It went on to describe him as “elusive, ambiguous, pragmatic, unimaginative, shrewd and outspoken.”