Monday, August 01, 2005

King Fahd is dead! Long live the King!

Turned on the news to find out that King Fahd of Saudi Arabia is dead. He may as well as have been dead for the last 10 years since everyone knows it was Crown Prince Abdullah who has been exercising the power during that time. Guess the Saudi's don't have a procedure for abdication.

Right wing bloggers are hailing this as a victory for democratization in the middle east. Trust me, its not, rather since Abdullah holds the power it means now he is free to do what he wants. Furthermore, the US does not need a democratic Saudi Arabia, it needs a stable monarchy there. Democracy in Saudi Arabia, means a Sunni version of Iran.

Also since Abdullah is 81, he is now in a caretaker status with the jockeying to begin on his succession. Lets look at the front running candidates:

A second factor governing the influence of Saudi princes is maternal lineage--Abdul Aziz had several wives. Sons of Abdul Aziz who are full brothers have tended to form cohesive political alliances against other sibling factions. The most influential and faction is the so-called "Sudairi Seven," sons of Abdul Aziz's wife Hussa al-Sudairi, and is headed by King Fahd. Fahd's six full brothers include Sultan, the Saudi Defense Minister; Nayef, the Interior Minister; and Salman, the governor of Riyadh. The Sudairi Seven are also the most pro-Western faction, strongly supporting Saudi Arabia's alliance with the United States.
Abdullah, however, is not a member of the Sudairi seven. Prior to the 1990-91 Gulf Crisis, Abdullah is said to have criticized the kingdom's dependence on American military protection. Believing that Saudi Arabia's long-term security is best served through warm relations with the larger community of Arab and Islamic states, Abdullah has taken the lead in bolstering Saudi relations with Iran and Syria.
Discernible shifts in foreign policy have already begun to evolve over the last three years as Abdullah has assumed more and more de facto ruling power amid Fahd's physical and political eclipse--Saudi Arabia's rapprochement with Iran is the most notable example of this.
The most important question is not whether Abdullah will succeed Fahd--this is widely expected by most experts--but who will succeed Abdullah. Under the terms of a 1994 law, Abdullah can designate his successor irrespective of seniority. It is possible, therefore, that he will attempt to bypass Sultan, the next-eldest son of Abdul Aziz and a member of the Sudairi seven, in favor of one of his younger full brothers. An attempt to remove Sultan, who is now the Saudi defense minister, from the line of succession could generate a fierce power struggle in the kingdom. Although Abdullah commands the 57,000 members of the National Guard, the leadership of the 105,000-strong Armed Forces is clearly aligned with Sultan.

Of note, Abdullah named Sultan to be the crown Prince not long after being designated King. No fool he, he knows this little bit of skullduggery will take time.

As I pointed out a while back, there is a difference in what is good for the Arabian states and what is good for the United States. The question is, does the President understand this, and will he deviate from his "democracy for all" theme in order to look out, selfishly, for US interests? I doubt it.

Time will tell.......


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