20.06.2014 Author: Pogos Anastasov

The Past and Future of the Al Saud Dynasty Part 2

342423From everything that was discussed in the previous section, it does not necessarily mean, as the authors of the secret Iraqi report write, that Saudi Arabia and its ruling clan supported the creation of the State of Israel. On the contrary, as is known, it has assisted its Arab neighbors more than once in their fight against Israel; and in 1973 announced an oil embargo in response to Western support of Tel Aviv. It is enough to open Saudi school books to read some rather unflattering remarks about Jews… And it’s another thing to take note, that in different periods, the interests of both Jerusalem and Riyadh seem objectively the same. As is the case currently with the Iranian nuclear issue or the impact of the Iranian regime in general; these parallels in policy make them de facto allies.

But how does it all relate back to the theme of our narrative? One can say directly, because today the survival of Israel as a Zionist state and the survival of Saudi Arabia as Saudi state are closely linked. On whether or not they can topple the regime of Bashar al-Assad, or break the “Shia arc,” (Iran-Iraq-Syria-Lebanon) or even break Hezbollah, there is really much that will determine their future.

In the meantime, the Saudi dynasty feels confident enough. It was able to survive the “Arab revolution” that chased from power in a key Arab country, Egypt, one of its competitors “The Muslim Brotherhood” and successfully, at least for now, managed to cope with the influx of jihadists suffering from defeat in Syria. This creates the well-known, and as it believes the legal sense, if not superiority, the patronizing attitudes towards many other Arabs who are mired in the problems brought on by the “Arab Spring.” What we see today is a Riyadh that is the one true undisputed leader of the Arab and Islamic world. Other traditional leaders such as Egypt are heavily dependent on its help, while others are considered, and I must say not without reason, as upstarts such as Qatar, forced under pressure of the Saudis and allies, with them the UAE, to temper their ambitions.

However, it is impossible not to see that the king of Saudi Arabia, the custodian of the Two Muslim shrines, Abdullah, having ruled the country for nine years, and if we count the period of regency during the illness of King Fahd (1995 to 2005), then almost nineteen years and who has already passed his 90th year in life, one would have to assume it’s time to think about who will replace him. The monarch himself has already secured his place in history as a great reformer, a balanced and wise statesman, one of the greatest politicians of his era. Upon leaving the political arena, it certainly would be called “great.” The attempt to find an adequate replacement for him will not be easy. Especially since the autumn of 2011 when leaders began falling one after the other, starting with the Prince Sultan, followed a year later by the Prince Naif, who were the leaders of the powerful Sudairi clan and always, up until King Abdullah, firmly attached the reins of the government.

Their departure somehow shifted the balance of power in the kingdom as a whole in favor of the family of King Abdullah, originating from the Shammar tribe, which one should rather consider it as a large clan or community of tribes living in northern Najd, in present day Iraq, Jordan and Syria.

Throughout 2013 and with the first half of 2014, the Kingdom has seen big changes that have altered the political landscape in the country. Included in the Sudairi are the brothers of Sultan, the sons of former Crown Prince of the Sultan (Bandar, Salman and Khaled) almost completely excluded from important government activity; and for Prince Bandar after losing his post as head of the Foreign Intelligence Service on March 15, was retained in the almost symbolic post of Secretary General of the National Security Council. Just one of the sons of the Sultan, Fahd holds a post in the not very significant northern province of Tabuk.

As for the Clan King Fahd, who ruled Saudi Arabia up until Abdullah, back in the nineties, during the reign of King Abdullah, he declined the race for the throne. Its representatives have virtually no power.

Emerging somewhat unscathed from these tests was the other line in the Sudairi clan, the family of Nayef. They occupied key posts in the Interior Ministry; it was combined with the Foreign Ministry, but still, according to the American typology, it resembled the FBI and the NSA. He was an energetic and competent man, Mohammed bin Nayef (“irregular breath” in Washington). His brother, a diplomat with extensive experience, Saud served as governor for the economy in Eastern province of the country. It was precisely the Nayef clan that created in the kingdom the balance of forces from the Sudairi clan perspective in opposing the family of King Abdullah.

As for the family of King Abdullah, representing the Shammar clan, it has been significantly strengthened in recent months. Prince Metib, who heads the National Guard, was given a ministerial post in the government. His brother Meshaal became governor of the prestigious and very important Mecca Province, which includes the “second capital” of the kingdom, Jeddah and Mecca which is the spiritual center of Islamic civilization.

Finally, on the 14th of May this year, another son of King Turki bin Abdullah assumed the post of governor of Riyadh. So now the children of King Abdullah are controlled by two of the three key provinces of Saudi Arabia.

And what about the family of Crown Prince Salman (also Sudairi clan), which is like the second person in the state? Ironically, during the recent reshuffle, many posts they did not win. Even the son of Salman, Mohammad, head of his private Chancellery, on April 25th of this year was given a ministerial post. On the plus side his appointment to the post can be described as important, but still only the fourth largest province of Medina another Salrnan, Prince Faisal. Two prominent princes of the Salman clan were retained in their previous positions. One is the very popular Saudi astronaut, Sultan bin Salman (management of museums and antiquities) and Abdelaziz Bin Salman (Deputy Minister of Petroleum Resources).

So, if you sum it all up, coming out of the tests generated by the “Arab Spring”, the leaders of Saudi Arabia (the king himself and his closest advisors, Mohammed bin Nayef and Prince Metib) were able to stabilize the internal political situation, establishing the joint reign of the Sudairi and Shammar clans

The guarantor of stability became the agreements between the clans from March 29, 2014 and affirmed by the second crown prince (after Prince Salman) and the youngest son of King Abdulaziz, Prince Mukrin. In other words, it is now law by Decree of the King, found that after Abdullah, head of the Saudi kingdom will be Prince Salman, and followed by Prince Mukrin. The decree was demonstratively launched during the course of the last five years and during the visit of the U.S. President Barack Obama in the Kingdom of Saud.

The intrigue with the Royal Throne in Saudi Arabia seems to be over, at least for this spring. There is only one question remaining, what will happen next? Will the Saud dynasty remain in power with the Sudairi clan as its head, or will they be replaced by a new dynasty associated with Saud, but independent in its capabilities, the Al Abdullah dynasty?

The answer to this question will be given only in time. While it is clear that Saudi Arabia, as mentioned above, was able to pass, not without losses, through all the trials of the “Arab Spring” while retaining its sovereignty and the territorial integrity of the state.

Saudi Arabia managed to push back and maintain a crucial role in the Arab world, Qatar and in several countries of the “Muslim brotherhood.” Disappointed with the United States who refused in the autumn of 2013 to deliver a blow to Syria and then began openly flirting with Iran, Saudi Arabia began to build its own regional “center of power” to unite Arabs (especially the Gulf countries) and many Muslims. Judging by everything, Saudi Arabia intends to send to the dustbin of history the Sykes-Picot Agreement (1915) and build its own world, tailored to its own likes and tastes.

It is quite obvious that in these conditions, Riyadh has become an important and promising partner of Russia, which, as well the Kingdom of Saud builds around himself integrated organizations and intends to be an important pole in an emerging multipolar world. The nature of the interaction of these two poles is largely determined by the new architecture of international relations…

Pogos Anastasov is a political science and Mid-East scholar and a columnist for the online journal “New Eastern Outlook”. 

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