Skip to comments.Saudi's Sudairi Seven Gearing Up for Power Play?
Posted on 07/26/2002 1:37:07 PM PDT by Axion
Saudi's Sudairi Seven Gearing Up for Power Play? Summary
26 July 2002
An odd series of visits to Saudi Arabian King Fahd in Geneva could be an indication of the initial stages of a plan to shift power away from Crown Prince Abdullah. Though still embryonic, such a plan -- even if it fails -- would reverberate throughout the Middle East.
Saudi Arabia's Prince Salman and Prince Abdul Rahman, both full brothers of King Fahd, left Riyadh today to travel to Geneva to meet with the aged king, the official Saudi Press Agency reported.
The visits of two of Fahd's full brothers came immediately following two private visits to the king by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordanian King Abdullah II. The diplomatic and royal traffic to Geneva is highly unusual, given that King Fahd no longer runs Saudi Arabia's day-to-day affairs. It may suggest the very earliest stages of a plan by America and its closest Arab allies to encourage the Sudairi Seven, a powerful faction of senior princes, to make a play for power against de facto ruler Crown Prince Abdullah.
Though still king, Fahd has been marginalized since he suffered a stroke in 1995. In his place, Crown Prince Abdullah has become de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia. Abdullah, however, is perceived by the United States as a less reliable ally than members of the Sudairi Seven, a powerful bloc of full brother senior princes. King Fahd, Prince Salman, Prince Abdul Rahman, Prince Turki, Defense Minister Prince Sultan, Interior Minister Prince Nayef and Prince Ahmed all are members.
Given Fahd's limited power now, the visits by Egypt's Mubarak and Jordan's Abdullah seem slightly out of place. Jordan's monarch traveled to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in early June to meet with Crown Prince Abdullah, but Mubarak has not met with Saudi's de facto leader since February 2000. Neither King Abdullah nor Mubarak attended the Arab League Summit in Beirut in March where Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah proposed his Arab peace plan.
According to reports about the meetings, the king discussed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with both Arab leaders. But the King is hardly in good enough health to mediate in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Nor has he shown any interest in doing so.
Compounding the mystery are the immediate follow-on visits by a contingent of the Sudairi Seven from Riyadh. The king's brothers may want to simply reassure themselves of the king's good health following Fahd's reported cataract surgery this week. Though any medical procedure at his advanced age -- Fahd is in his late 70s -- can be dangerous, eye surgery is hardly life threatening. Moreover, the King has already had the surgery (which was reported a success) and is scheduled to travel to Spain, Reuters reported July 25.
The combination of all of the unusual traffic may point to another, more clandestine agenda. Fahd is still the leader of the Sudairi Seven and his approval would be needed before any coherent plan could emerge for his full brothers to challenge half-brother Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah.
If, for instance, the United States has grown leery of dealing with Crown Prince Abdullah and is looking for alternate allies among the royal family, Washington could hardly approach those princes directly. Instead, it would look for emissaries -- and who better than two key Arab leaders who are also close Washington allies?
At the same time, neither Mubarak nor Jordan's King Abdullah would approach Salman or Sultan before first getting King Fahd, the head of their faction, on board. Perhaps Salman's purpose in going to Geneva is to have relayed to him the messages delivered by Mubarak and King Abdullah and King Fahd's reaction to the ideas.
There is no direct evidence that such a plan exists or that the United States is actively seeking alternate allies in Riyadh. A series of strange coincidences in the context of rapidly deteriorating relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia, however, makes such political maneuverings and intrigue possible. While nothing is certain yet, the consequences of such a scheme could shatter what remains of the U.S.-Saudi alliance and reconfigure the entire U.S. position in the Middle East.
Saudi's Sudairi Seven Gearing Up for Power Play?
By the way, I wonder if there's any connection between the deaths of the two Saudi princes over the past week and succession troubles in the kingdom.