Aug 01 2005

Saudi Repercussions

Published by at 8:25 am under All General Discussions

The news of King Fahd’s passing is going to set off some interesting repurcussions in Saudia Arabia and the region. His has not been in actual power since his 1995 stroke, when his hald brother took control of the levers of power in the country. His half brother, Prince Abdullah is now the new King at age 81.

Which means he is also not going to be the Saudi leader for any extended period of time. So who will be the next long term leader to impact this key ME country?

Well Prince Sultan was named crowned Prince – next to succeed. Here is some background on the crowned Prince, also not young or in the best of health.

Now crown prince to King Abdullah, Sultan’s powerbase lies in his control of the regular armed forces. A minister for half a century, he has served under every Saudi monarch.

Diplomats say advanced age – he was born in 1924 – and a suspected case of cancer last year have not dimmed his ambition.

“Sultan is a smart politician,” said a senior member of a neighbouring Gulf Arab state’s ruling family. “He is a knowledgeable man and a very good game player.”

While defence minister, Sultan spent more than $US100 billion ($131 billion) modernising the military of the world’s biggest oil exporter, doubling the regular armed forces to more than 100,000 men and buying advanced weapons from east and west.

Rumours of differences between Abdullah, a cautious reformer, and Sultan emerged following King Fahd’s stroke in November 1995. Abdullah tried to rein in royal spending during the lean years of low oil prices, a move which diplomats say was resisted by some of his wealthy and powerful brothers.

Sultan dampened expectations that the kingdom’s first nationwide elections, a men-only vote for seats on local councils held earlier this year, would lead to wider reform.

Elections to the kingdom’s consultative Shura council would only lead to “illiterates” winning influence, he said, arguing that the existing system of appointing members was better.

I guess it is better for all of us for Abdullah to live a long and happy life. At least live longer than Sultan. He does not appear to be the kind of leader Saudia Arabia or the world needs right now.

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