This will be interesting to watch. Though the world will never really know much about the succession process.
Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, died in New York
earlier Saturday from an illness, raising questions over succession in the
Crown Prince Sultan, who also served as defense minister as well as being
second in line to the throne, went to the U.S. in June for medical tests. He was
believed to be 86 and will be buried Tuesday.
Although Sultan, who was the half brother of the ailing Saudi King Abdullah,
was long seen as a likely future king, his health had deteriorated sharply in
recent years, leading to long periods of absence from Saudi Arabia for an
illness that analysts believed was cancer.
Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, a brother who is thought to be 77, is
seen as Sultan’s most likely successor as crown prince, putting him next in line
to King Abdullah.
King Abdullah, who also has health issues, underwent a back operation last
week, the third in less than a year, to retighten the binding connector around
the third vertebra in the back. It is still unclear how long the king will take
to recover, or when he is expected to leave the hospital.
The lack of detailed information about the king’s ailment has previously
fanned speculation of a more serious problem with the health of the ruler of the
Arab world’s largest economy.
In order for Prince Nayef to become the crown prince, a special committee set
up by the royal family five years ago to regulate the kingdom’s opaque process
of succession will have to reach an agreement on his elevation.
The so-called Allegiance Council, representing every branch of the dynasty
founded by King Abdulaziz Ibn Saud last century, has never been tested before.
It must now meet to approve King Abdullah’s nomination of a new crown prince,
setting the direction of the country for years to come.
That prospect worries more liberal Saudis, who say Prince Nayef’s record as
interior minister since 1975 involved blocking some reforms and overseeing
crackdowns on political dissidents.
Other analysts, however, say the nature of his job as interior minister
demanded an authoritarian approach. They believe he might show a different face
if he ever becomes king.
Unlike in most kingdoms, the Saudi monarchy does not pass from father to son,
but along a line of brothers born to Ibn Saud, who founded Saudi Arabia in 1934.
Only 19 of the Saudi patriarch’s 45 sons are still alive, and Prince Nayef is
the most senior of these who is active in politics.
The council is almost certain to approve Prince Nayef, say analysts, yet its
decision is to some extent a trial run for a more difficult deliberation in the
future, when it must anoint one of Ibn Saud’s grandchildren as crown prince for
the first time.
Prince “Nayef will be announced the crown prince most likely this week,” said
a Saudi official, who asked not to be identified. “It is a natural move which
Meanwhile, the death of Sultan has opened another important vacancy: that of
defense and aviation minister, which the late prince held for almost 50 years,
overseeing a series of massive armament programs.
In this role, Prince Sultan was a vital link in the series of alliances that
bound Saudi Arabia to Western nations over decades, using weaponry purchases to
solidify relations with the U.S., U.K. and France.
Most analysts believe the job will be inherited by his son, Prince Khaled bin
Sultan Al Saud, who has been deputy defense minister since 2001 and commanded
Saudi forces during the 1991 Gulf War.