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Saudi Arabia: Treatment Ends for the Ailing Crown Prince

2 MINS READJan 7, 2009 | 23:15 GMT
ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty Images
Saudi Defense Minister and Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz has arrived in Morocco after doctors in New York told him his radiation treatment was finished and that there is nothing more to be done for him, sources told STRATFOR on Jan. 7. Senior members of the Saudi royal family reportedly are on their way to the North African country. Crown Prince Sultan has been terminally ill for a while, and his death will have significant ramifications in terms of succession and the balance of power among the various factions in the royal family. This will likely be the first time the Saudi royal family will have to replace a crown prince. It is easier to replace a king, because there is always a crown prince, but when a crown prince dies, the succession process becomes complicated — especially if the crown prince is very powerful. Crown Prince Sultan is the head of the Sudeiri clan, the most powerful clan within the al-Saud family, and he serves as deputy prime minister and defense minister, which is why his death will lead to a major shake-up in the kingdom's top leadership. His two sons are also in powerful positions. The younger one, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the kingdom's envoy to Washington for 22 years (1983-2005), is the country's national security chief. The older one, Prince Khalid, a key former general who commanded the country's forces in the 1991 Gulf War, is currently deputy defense minister. Though Crown Prince Sultan's younger brother, Riyadh Gov. Prince Salman, is seen as the favorite to be the next crown prince, the decision is in the hands of the recently constituted succession council. This will be the first time the body will have to carry out its mandate of choosing a successor. Since the establishment of the kingdom in the early part of the 20th century, the Saudis have done well in terms of ad hoc decisions regarding succession. How well they can adapt to a formal process will be very telling in terms of future stability in the country —especially given that the sons of the founder, King Abdul-Aziz, are all advanced in age, and a legion of grandsons will be competing for the top jobs.

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