Simon Henderson is the Baker fellow and director of the Bernstein Program on Gulf and Energy Policy at The Washington Institute, specializing in energy matters and the conservative Arab states of the Persian Gulf.
The relationship between Riyadh and Washington affects a range of U.S. foreign policy interests including Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Middle East peace process, and energy. Indeed, Saudi Arabia maintains strategic regional standing as well as leadership roles in international energy markets and global Islamic affairs.
But within the next few years, Saudi Arabia is likely to witness dramatic leadership changeovers. King Abdullah, at eighty-six, is already older than any of his predecessors. Since the character of the U.S.-Saudi relationship has often, over the years, been dictated by the personality and style of the Saudi king, the views of potential successors should be of intense interest to policymakers in Washington.
In this new Washington Institute Policy Focus, Saudi expert Simon Henderson explores the likely consequences of King Abdullah's 2006 decision to form an Allegiance Council of senior princes with a potential role in choosing future crown princes. From within this context, the study recommends steps that the United States can take to accommodate the kingdom's leadership changes and to limit any resultant instability. Henderson draws on private interviews of U.S. and British officials, former diplomats, military advisors, and oil company executives with direct knowledge of the Saudi royal family. Numerous appendices include a 270-year chronology of Saudi history, a chart of the maternal linkages among the sons of Abdulaziz, the current composition of the Saudi ulama, and excerpts from the Saudi Basic Law of Governance.
After King Abdullah updates Henderson's seminal 1994 Washington Institute Policy Paper After King Fahd: Succession in Saudi Arabia, an examination of King Fahd's then newly codified Saudi succession rules. Like its predecessor, After King Abdullah is sure to become the definitive work on the subject of Saudi succession.