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Saudi Arabia is on the verge of great upheaval
Material posted: Publication date: 13-01-2015

King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz is in a deep coma and in the opinion of the best specialists of the world is unlikely to come out of it. The sharp deterioration in the health of the king have waded into the controversy on the candidacy of his successor and the future of the whole country and even the entire Gulf region. And now these problems arose very sharply increased the likelihood that in 2015 to power in this country will come a new king. However it is still an ongoing debate on the question of who exactly will become the heir of the current monarch.

The king dying?

Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz is now 91 years old, and he has already undergone several surgeries on the lower back. First in Riyadh said that the king sent to the hospital to pass some tests, but then it turned out he had pneumonia and he can't breathe on her own. For many years, Abdullah feels the urge to smoke, and some sources report that he besides lung cancer. However, later on, from the Saudi capital were heard allegations that after intensive treatment, the king became better and he is on the mend. But it's hard to believe. At least there is a question why in recent days Riyadh every day by visitors from U.S., representing a variety of political circles and institutions. And this says only one thing – Washington prepares for the resignation of the current king of the KSA and trying to control the process of power shift in this country that there was a severe struggle for the inheritance. After all, the U.S. has made Saudi Arabia depends largely on a variety of factors of global and regional importance: energy stability in the world, which is especially important now, when Riyadh in coordination with Washington plays a sharp drop in oil prices on the world market in order to weaken the economies of Russia and Iran; the future of Syria, where the Saudis are playing a crucial role in plans to overthrow the government of Bashar al-Assad; the situation in Iraq, where Riyadh is making every effort to weaken the Shia government in Baghdad; the fight against ISIL, which is largely funded from Saudi Treasury; the negotiations on the Iranian nuclear program, which the Saudis climb the most brazen, though not of their party; political-military security in the Persian Gulf; stability in Egypt, where the military relies on government financial assistance to the CSA; the decision of the Palestinian problem; the situation in Yemen, etc.

What would a regime change in Saudi Arabia?

Having Saudi Arabia as its main strategic partner in the middle East, Washington has thus put all of my eggs in one basket. And is now preparing to reap the fruits of such a short-sighted policy. After all, what will happen after the death of king Abdullah, depend on numerous American interests in the region. The U.S. doesn't have another powerful ally except Israel, but Israel is not an Arab country, and to build on in the Arab world is just silly in the current environment. The largest country in the region – Iran – is also not an Arab state. And run to him with hat in hand in search of a strategic partner – do not understand the Republicans, and the Arabs of the Arabian Peninsula too. But Egypt, which has always been the leader of the Arab world, destroyed the "color revolution" that sparked the U.S. together with Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The remaining countries either do not pull on the role of leader of the Arabs, or greatly weakened by the "Arab spring". In particular, Iraq or Syria. Therefore, for Washington, now the most important thing is a smooth transition of power in Saudi Arabia.

Otherwise, you may encounter a split in the ruling dynasty, inside which there is so much disagreement. Moreover, the old generation consisting of the sons of the founder of the KSA, back over the young princes – grandchildren and other younger relatives of the king Abdul-Aziz, who created the Kingdom. In addition, Saudi Arabia has a lot of other clans and families, by birth no less noble than the al-Saud, who would like to restore at least some of the lost rights. Not to mention the technocrats who advocate for total modernization of the country, realizing that her continued presence in the measurements of the 18th century can result in full collapse mode and collapse of the state, artificially created 85 years ago by the British on the basis of fragments of the Ottoman Empire. In Nedge dominated by Wahhabis in Hijaz and in the North-West Sunni, in the Eastern province, the Shia, in the South of the Ismailis, on the South-West of the Yemeni tribes, many of whom are Shia. The more all this happens in conditions of a General deterioration in KSA Sunni-Shiite conflict. Yes and on the outer perimeter boundaries of the Kingdom, not all is quiet. In Iraq there is a war between ISIL and forces supporting the Shiite government in Baghdad, in Syria long ago blazes a bloody conflict, which he himself Riyadh and sparked. In Yemen came to power Shiite rebels-Houthis, supported by Iran. With the Iran relationship is very tense, again on the initiative of the Saudis, who see Tehran and rival Shiite revolutionary threat. Yes and with the neighboring Arab countries of Arabia, things are not smooth at all. Many predict the collapse of the CSA in 3-4 States, and that was before the formation of the Kingdom. Especially in the country, a growing wave of terrorist threat under the influence of ISIS, and the prestige of the king as the custodian of the two Holy places of Islam (Mecca and Medina) fell because Saudi destructive interference everywhere in the Arab world. Even hear the appeals of the leading Ulema to convey the deeds of the Hajj and the two Holy sites into the hands of the world Council of Muftis. But if the CSA falls apart, then the region will ride the wave of revolutionary upheaval against conservative regimes Arabia in General. This will increase the role of radical Islamism, which has already received almost real public education in the face of ISIL.

The main contenders

The crown Prince of Saudi dynasty Salman (born 1935) currently holds the position of Minister of defence of the country and for several months headed by a Cabinet meeting. Having the right to inherit the throne in 2012, he represented king Abdullah in almost all foreign trips. Before his election as heir to the throne Salman for 48 years was the head of the administration of Riyadh. When in 1963 he received the position, lived in the town on the whole 200 thousand inhabitants, but now their number has increased, amounting to about five million people. His candidacy as the new ruler is considered more suitable, although he is very sick. And he's about to turn 80 years old. In addition, in the 80 years during the Soviet stay in Afghanistan Salman oversaw the collection of financial aid to the Afghan Mujahideen and this line worked closely with the Wahhabi circles of Saudi Arabia.

Due to health issues of Salman in February 2013 as Deputy heir was declared Prince Mugrinom so as not to violate the principle of continuity in the succession. The mugrinom (born in 1945, so he's 70 years old) was educated at the Royal aeronautical College in the UK, and then was enlisted as a pilot in the air force of Saudi Arabia. Subsequently he was appointed to the post of Governor of Medina province and then head of Saudi intelligence service. In addition, the Mugrinom maintains close ties with king Abdullah.

All three of them (Abdullah, Salman and Mugrinom) are sons of king Abdul Aziz, founder of Saudi dynasty, among which there are 45 sons. Currently, the children of Abdul-Aziz are part of the "Supreme family Council (Shura Beat"), which was formed by Abdullah in 2007 to simplify the process of selecting heir to the throne. Most experts agree that the Mugrinom is the last effective politician of all the sons of Abdul-Aziz, so when and if he becomes crown Prince after the coming to power of Salman, the dynasty of the Institute for African studies will not be easy to choose the next contenders for power from the grandsons of its founder. This would put the ruling dynasty of the Kingdom before the crisis of legitimacy, which it has not yet had to face in its history.

The younger generation is eager for power

In any case, from about 1,500 princes who constitute the backbone of the ruling dynasty of Saudi Arabia, access to the top will get a unit. Only legitimate sons he was 45, and it is unknown how many of the slave-concubines. If each of them had at least as many sons as the current king Abdullah (15), and at least half of this amount has each of the grandchildren (and oldest of them are over 70 years old), the "personnel reserve" will be very impressive. Among this cohort of princes most worthy are those who are and in the maternal line descended from purebred soudavar from the tribal elite. After Mugrin bin Abdul-Aziz next most influential is the son of the king Abdullah bin Muteb. He is the first grandchild of the king-founder, who took in recent years, key positions in the state, that is, in the power unit. For many years he was Deputy of his father, held in his hands the leadership of the National guard, the most important power tool − 70-thousand troops, recruited from the Bedouin. In 2010, the king entrusted the command to his son, and in 2013, the maximum increased the status of this power structure, having formed the Ministry of the national guard, and thus formally equalized the powers of its head with the powers of the Ministers of defence and interior. First, as already noted above, is headed by the crown Prince.

But the Minister of the interior in 2012 became the Prince Mohammed bin Nayef (he is now 55 years old). Post moved to it by inheritance from his father, the former at the same time the crown Prince (died in June 2012, had "only" 5 sons). For years, Prince Mohammed was the Deputy Minister responsible, in particular, for the fight against terrorist groups.

One strong man among the "grandchildren" − Prince Bandar bin Sultan. This is a very famous personality from the days when his father held the post of Minister of defense and was the crown Prince (died in October 2011). Since the beginning of the Reagan presidency almost to the end of the presidency of George W. Bush, Bandar was the Saudi Ambassador to the U.S., and could freely visit the White house whenever they want. No coincidence he was nicknamed "Bandar Bush". After returning from Washington, king Abdullah appointed him first Secretary General of the national security Council, and later head of foreign intelligence. However, having failed all Saudi efforts to change the regimes in Syria and Iraq, Bandar in the summer of 2014 was shot and left in the shade.

There are two important Governor's provinces and the capital of the East, where the main oil deposits. The Governor of Riyadh in 2012 was appointed Khaled bin Bandar, the son of the eldest of the living sons of the founder of Saudi Arabia, and owing to this very respected and influential member of the ruling family. Prior to his appointment to the post of mayor of the capital, Prince Khaled was the commander of land forces. The Governor of the Eastern province, Saud bin Nayef before his appointment in January 2013 he was Vice-Governor of the region, for a long time was Ambassador to Spain, a few months was chief of staff of his father − the crown Prince. But the death of Prince Nayef did not put an end to his career, on the contrary, he became one of the most influential figures among the "grandchildren", because he knows the mechanisms of monitoring of financial flows from oil exports.


In any case, one thing is clear – most likely in the case of the king's death the power will pass to the crown Prince or his Deputy. That is, the rule will be the last generation of the sons of the king-founder of in old age, and far be it from me to have good health. And it is unlikely to make any serious decisions. Its function will be very limited – to ensure the continuity of generations of the dynasty al Saud. So significant positive change in the policy of CSA should not be expected. But this is a weak point, since we are talking about conservation and not solving problems. Especially because Riyadh is in danger of a financial nature, further lowering oil prices, following the lead of the US. And it has raised the discontent of the other princes and tribal clans who receive dividends from oil revenues. Their leader is conditionally Prince Waleed bin Talal − the nephew of the king. Here he represents that generation of technocrats, which wants reform and modernization for the survival of their country as a unified state. But their chances are small, unless they come into conflict with the transfer of power in case of the death of king Abdullah.


Vladimir Alekseev


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