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King Abdullah in US for medical tests 22, November 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Saudi Arabia.
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Saudi King Abdullah is currently in America undergoing further medical tests. Despite going through successful surgery last week for a herniated disk, after blood was found on his spine, he has once again given his powers (theoretically temporarily) to Prince Nayef. It is thought that he will be treated at the Mayo Clinic.

Despite official protestations that these tests are all vaguely routine and that there are no critical health issues, many fear that the 86 year old Monarch may well be on his last legs. Abdicating his role as leader of the Saudi National Guard to his son last week added to the concerns that his condition is far more serious than people previously thought.

Prince Nayef is expected to take over should Abdullah pass away. Prince Sultan, who is technically next in line, is barely lucid these days and could not reasonably be expected to take over. Having said this, this exact situation occurred in Kuwait a few years ago and they elected Saad in 2006 when he had wholly lost his mental faculties and had to be removed by Parliament within a few weeks.

Nayef is very conservative and many fear that he would roll back many of Abdullah’s reforms. There are two important caveats to this fear. First, Abdullah himself was feared to be just such a conservative candidate when he was elected yet transpired to be one of Saudi’s most liberal Kings. Second, it is difficult to understand the exigencies of the job; who knows what the pressures of actually being in charge will do. Perhaps Nayef will find himself hamstrung by the inertia of change.

Iranian media is already practically gleefully reporting his illness and suggesting (in hope rather than expectation, I think) that Saudi Arabia may well descend into a civil war of family versus family.

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