The Washington Institute has recently been sponsoring a series of discussions about sudden succession in the Middle East. Each session focuses on scenarios that might unfold if a specific ruler or leader departed the scene tomorrow. Questions include these: Would the sudden change lead to different policies? Would it affect the stability of the respective countries involved, or the region as a whole? What would be the impact on U.S. interests? Would the manner of a leader's departure make a difference? The discussions also probe how the U.S. government might adjust to the new situation or influence outcomes.
This essay, third in a series resulting from these sessions on succession, shifts the lens to Saudi Arabia, rather well known for eccentric leadership transitions since the modern kingdom was founded in 1932. One monarch, Saud, was forced to abdicate in 1964 under family pressure. The next, Faisal, was assassinated in 1975 by a nephew. King Khalid followed, but he was just a figurehead. And so on until the thirty-three-year-old phenomenon known as MbS, a modernizer who has quickly gained notoriety for his reckless administrative style. Whether he ultimately ascends the throne will entail plenty of plot twists, but it also holds serious implications for the kingdom, the future of the region, and U.S. interests.
Simon Henderson is the Baker Fellow and director of the Bernstein Program on Gulf and Energy Policy at The Washington Institute, where he specializes in energy matters and the conservative Arab states of the Persian Gulf....read more