Saudi Crown Prince, Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz, 78, died on Saturday in Geneva, Switzerland, a situation that opens the issue of the succession to the throne the second time in less than 12 months.
He was the half brother of current King Abdullah, in his late 80s and he was named as Crown Prince last October, following the death of Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. Nayef was part of the so-called ‘Sudairi Seven’, a group of the sons of the founder of the Kingdom King Abdulaziz al Saud and one of his wives, Hassa bint Ahmed al-Sudairi. To the same group belongs the Foreign Minister Saud al Faisal and Khaled al Faisal, the governor of Mecca province.
Saudi Arabia is considered one of the West’s most important allies in the region, despite a poor record of human rights, especially when it comes to human rights. Last but not least, the country is considered the one of OPEC’s top producers. On the other hand, Saudi women are not allowed to drive or to be included in the team of the country participating in the Olympic Games.
On the other hand, the country is facing serious economic problems due to the high rate of unemployment, which affects especially the young Saudis.
After 9/11, as Interior Minister, a position he occupied for 37 years, Nayef coordinated the efforts against the local al-Qaeda branch. In his letter of condolences, president Obama hailed Nayef who “dedicated himself to the security of Saudi Arabia as well as security throughout the region”. UK Foreign Secretary William Hague praised his ‘dedication to the prosperity and security of the Kingdom.’
According to media reports, the successor will be designated Nayef’s brother, Defense Minister Prince Salman. The final decision belongs to the Allegiance Council, a body created in 2006, an assembly of 30 male members of the King Abdul-Aziz family, the first Saudi monarch. Salman, 76, served for over 40 years as the governor of Riyadh, a very important position of power both at the local and international level.
On the other hand, it is expected that the representatives of the Western-educated third generation of Saudi prices to move forth in order to take a more important role in the ruling of the kingdom in a more modern way. Salman is a follower of the Wahhabi religious establishment and there are little chances to see a dramatic change during his mandate.
The announcement of the death was made by a Royal Court Statement on the public TV, without addition details about the cause. The funeral is expected on Sunday in Makkah province, after prayers in Mecca. Bahrain and Kuwait announced three days of mourning. During the anti-Governmental protests in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia sent troops aimed to crush the Sunni protests. Saudi Arabia opposed the 1990 Saddam Hussein invasion of Kuweit.