Saudi Arabia's Prince Nayef, Next In Line To Throne, Dies; Saudi Shares Plunge

Tyler Durden's picture

Coming into the weekend, most were focusing on key events coming out of Greece and France, possibly Egypt, but nobody expected that Saudi Arabia would be thrown into the fray. That just happened, however, following news that Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz al-Saud has died in Geneva, according to Saudi state television, citing a royal court statement. The news has sent Saudi shares sliding, because now 89-year-old King Abdullah must nominate a new heir for the second time in nine months. And the last thing the middle-east region needs, not to mention the world's biggest oil producer, needs is more geopolitical uncertainty.

From Reuters:

Nayef, interior minister since 1975 and thought to be 78, was the heir to Saudi King Abdullah and was appointed crown prince in October after the death of his elder brother and predecessor in the role, Crown Prince Sultan.


State television said the burial would be in Mecca on Sunday.


Defence Minister Prince Salman, 76, seen as likely to continue King Abdullah's cautious reforms, has long been viewed as the next most senior prince in the kingdom's succession.


Nayef had a reputation as a steely conservative who opposed King Abdullah's reforms and developed a formidable security infrastructure that crushed al Qaeda but also locked up some political activists.


He, King Abdullah and Salman are among the nearly 40 sons of Saudi Arabia's founder, Abdulaziz ibn Saud, who established the kingdom in 1935.


Salman was made defence minister in November and had served as Riyadh governor for five decades.


Nayef went to Switzerland for medical tests in May.

What are the strategic implications of the death? Back in March, Stratfor did an analysis looking at just that in "Saudi Arabia's Succession Labyrinth"

The Saudi royalty's health problems come at a time of great uncertainty for Riyadh. On the home front, the Saudis are trying to ensure that the regional Arab unrest does not spill into its borders. At the same time, they are trying to counter an increasingly aggressive Iran. That said, the al-Saud regime has proved to be remarkably resilient over the course of its history, remaining in power despite the forced abdication of the founder’s successor, King Saud, in 1964; the assassination of King Faisal in 1975; and the stroke-induced incapacitation of King Fahd for nearly a decade until his death in 2005, when King Abdullah took the throne.


Setting Up a Succession Plan


Sensing that the power-sharing method within the family had become untenable due to the sheer number of descendants seeking power and influence within the regime, King Abdullah in 2007 moved to enact the Allegiance Institution Law, which created a leadership council and a formal mechanism to guide future transitions of power.


This new, 35-member body, called the Allegiance Council, is made up of the 15 surviving sons of the founder and 19 of his grandsons -- a disparity that will grow as the sons begin to die. Its purpose is to choose the new king and crown prince when they die or are permanently incapacitated, but the new institution remains an untested body. Perhaps most problematic, the processes the council is set to govern are being implemented at a time when the second generation is on its way out. Had this formal process of succession been initiated earlier, it would have been institutionalized during the era of the sons of the founder. They were far fewer in number and worked directly with their father to build the kingdom, giving them a stronger claim to authority than anyone in the subsequent generation. An earlier start would have allowed the second generation to deal with the many problems that inevitably crop up with any new system.


The composition of the Allegiance Council is such that it gives representation to all the sons of the founder. This is done through either their direct membership on the council or via the grandsons whose fathers are deceased, incapacitated, or otherwise unwilling to assume the throne. The reigning king and his crown prince are not members but each has a son on the council. The council is chaired by the eldest son of the founder, with his second-oldest brother as his deputy. Should there be no one left from the second generation, the leadership of the council falls to the eldest grandson. Any time there is a vacancy, the king is responsible for appointing a replacement, though it is not known if King Abdullah has filled the vacancy created by the death of Prince Fawaz bin Abdul-Aziz, who died in July 2008, some six months after the establishment of the council.


When King Abdullah dies, the council will pledge allegiance to the crown prince, currently Prince Nayef, though given his declining health it is questionable whether he will outlive the king. But the issue of the next crown prince is mired in a potential contradiction. According to the new law, after consultation with the Allegiance Council, the king can submit up to three candidates to the council for approval. The council can reject all of them and name a fourth candidate. But if the king rejects the council’s nominee then the council will vote between its own candidate and the one preferred by the king, and the candidate who gets the most votes becomes the crown prince. There is also the option that the king may ask the council to nominate a candidate. In any case, a new crown prince must be appointed within a month of the new king’s accession.


This new procedure, however, conflicts with the established practice in which the second deputy prime minister takes over as crown prince, a policy that has been followed since King Faisal appointed Fahd to the post. In fact, the current king, after not naming a second deputy prime minister (essentially a crown prince-in-waiting) for four years, appointed Interior Minister Prince Naif to the post in March 2009. But since Naif became crown prince (and thus deputy prime minister), the post of second deputy prime minister remains vacant. Salman, next in the line of succession, should have been given this post, but this has not yet happened. Regardless, however, the post of second deputy prime minister after the establishment of the Allegiance Council raises the question of whether established tradition will be replaced by the new formal procedure.


The law also addresses the potential scenario in which both the king and crown prince fall ill such that they cannot fulfill their duties, which could transpire in the current situation given the health issues of both King Abdullah and Crown Prince Naif. In such a situation, the Allegiance Council would set up a five-member Transitory Ruling Council that would take over the affairs of the state until at least one of the leaders regained his health. If, however, it is determined by a special medical board that both leaders are permanently incapacitated, the Allegiance Council must appoint a new king within seven days.


In the event that both the king and crown prince die simultaneously, the Allegiance Council would appoint a new king. The Transitory Ruling Council would govern until the new king was appointed. While it has been made clear that the Transitory Ruling Council will not be allowed to amend a number of state laws, its precise powers and composition have not been defined.


What Lies Ahead


The kingdom has little precedent in terms of constitutionalism. It was only in 1992 that the first constitution was developed, and even then the country has been largely governed via consensus obtained through informal means involving tribal and familial ties. Therefore, when this new formal mechanism for succession is put into practice, the House of Saud is bound to run into problems not only in implementation, but also competing interpretations.


To make matters worse, the Saudis are in the midst of this succession dilemma -- and will be for many years to come given the advanced ages of many senior princes -- at a time of massive change within the kingdom and a shifting regional landscape.


Saudi Arabia is perhaps at the most important historical impasse since the founding of its first incarnation in 1744. A number of internal and external events are occurring simultaneously and subjecting the Saudi state to extreme strain. On the external front there are a number of challenges, the most significant of which is the regional rise of Iran, catalyzed by the Shia-dominated government in Baghdad and the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. The Saudis also do not wish to see a U.S.-Iranian conflict in the Persian Gulf, which would have destabilizing effects on the kingdom. While Riyadh was struggling with the challenge from Iran, the Arab unrest erupted in early 2011, which has created two major hot spots on the eastern and southern borders of the kingdom.


On the southern flank, Yemen was grappling with three different insurrections challenging the regime of aging Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh even before the Arab unrest. A year later, Yemen is now in a post-Saleh period with a new president and various others jockeying for power. The Saudis are concerned about the Yemeni state and whether it will be able to hold together given that various forces are pulling Sanaa in different directions and jihadists are taking over significant swaths of territory.


On Saudi Arabia's east coast, Bahrain's Shia majority rose up against the minority Sunni monarchy. Bahrain is a bridge away from Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, which houses the largest concentration of Shia and represents a huge potential for Iran to gain a foothold on the Arabian Peninsula. This is why we saw Riyadh team up with its Gulf Cooperation Council allies to engage in its first-ever foreign military deployment to assist Manama’s security forces. Through this action, Saudi Arabia was able to contain the agitation, at least for the time being.


The empowerment of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt -- following the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak -- and like-minded Islamist forces elsewhere in North Africa poses another major challenge for the Saudis. The meltdown of decades-old autocratic regimes together with the electoral successes of Islamists has implications for the stability of Saudi Arabia’s Islamic monarchical model of governance. Concerns about the Muslim Brotherhood being a beneficiary of the uprising in Syria has the Saudi kingdom proceeding cautiously in supporting the rebels there, even though the ouster of the Syrian regime represents the single best option to weaken the threat from Iran.


Furthermore, the Syrian unrest has implications for Lebanon, Jordan and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- all key areas of interest for the Saudis on their northern flank.


Turkey’s bid for leadership in the Middle East is a new variable the kingdom has not had to deal with since the close of World War I and the demise of the Ottoman Empire. In the near term, the Saudis take comfort in the idea that Turkey can serve as a counter to Iran, but the long-term challenge posed by Turkey’s rise is a worrying development, especially since the Saudi leaders’ predecessors lost control of the Arabian Peninsula twice to the Ottomans -- once in 1818 and then again in 1891.


Even in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Saudis are caught between two unappealing options: side with the Taliban, as they did during the Taliban’s rule in the 1990s, and risk empowering al Qaeda-led jihadists, or oppose the Taliban and thus help Iran expand its influence in the area.


While the Saudis have time to deal with a number of these external challenges, they do not enjoy that same luxury in their domestic affairs. The Saudis have been largely successful in containing the threat from al Qaeda, but they have had to engage in radical reforms, spearheaded by King Abdullah, in order to do so. These include scaling back the powers of the religious establishment, expanding the public space for women, changing the educational sector and undertaking other social reforms.


These moves have led to a growing moderate-conservative divide at both the level of state and society and have galvanized those calling for further socio-political reforms as well as the significant Shia minority that seeks to exploit the opening provided by the reform process. These domestic issues have been magnified exponentially given the Arab unrest. In addition to the growing Shia protests in parts of the Eastern Province, there are reports of student unrest in the southwestern province of Asir.


There are also early signs of mainstream Saudis trying to mobilize in other parts of the kingdom -- at least over the Internet. It is difficult for the Saudi authorities to prevent a large university-educated youth population -- a large segment of which is unemployed -- from being affected by the new protest norm in the region.


Complicating this situation are fears of the religious establishment that the new regional climate is weakening its influence, especially if the government moves to engage in additional reforms. While thus far the Saudis have been able to control prominent Muslim scholars, known as the ulema class, especially with the limits on who can issue fatwas, the potential for backlash from the ulema remains. At the very least, the ulema will support more conservative factions in any power struggle.


All of these issues further complicate the Saudis’ venture into uncharted territory insofar as leadership changes are concerned. There are several princes who have already distinguished themselves as likely key players in a future Saudi regime. These include intelligence chief Prince Muqrin, the youngest living son of the founder and a member of the Allegiance Council; Prince Khalid bin Faisal, the governor of Mecca province; Prince Mitab bin Abdullah, the new commander of SANG; and Assistant Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Naif, the kingdom’s counterterrorism chief and head of the de-radicalization program designed to reintegrate repentant jihadists.


Stratfor is thus watching this issue very closely for any movement on the part of the untested Allegiance Council, which is expected to choose a crown prince and king as per the new succession law in the event of the death of the incumbents. Salman could take over as Crown Prince, but he is seen as the last of the major princes, which means it will be important to see who among the grandsons of the founder of the modern kingdom will emerge as key stakeholders in the Saudi system. But in the end, the real issue is whether the historically resilient Saudi monarchy will be able to continue to demonstrate resilience moving forward.

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Global Hunter's picture

Gully that is some crazy wacked out maniacal shit you've posted...unfortunately I find it very plausible.

Gully Foyle's picture

Global Hunter

Sometimes I think because we inhabit a multiverse made up of many universes rangeing from the near exact copy to the radically different, visionaries mange a glimpse into the others. Mystics, SCIFI authors, so on may merely be channeling the events of another place just like this.

Everyone quotes Nostradamus, but there are a shitload of other people who have made predictions.

Some like Criswell are worth the read just to see what pure bullshit sells.

In this case, I stumbled across the Iron Tower line just after 911 and it strick a chord.

The Big Ching-aso's picture



A shitload indeed with emphasis on the shit if I may be so bold.    I can take excerpts from the Bible, (which in this case this author blatantly rips off Revelation IMO), and make it sound with some tweaks here and tweaks there like I'm some prophesizer extraordinaire.    Beware of simple-living devout BS artists professing to be the real-deal when in reality they're grand plagiarizers, con artists with agendas, and at best mediocre aspiring novelists.  Yeah they had a shitload of them in the 1950's just as today.   BTW they're almost always described as 'devout' by some interviewer as if a shimmering halo covers their pate up until they're caught buggering little boys in cloisters and shower stalls.

If I don't personally know a man's soul and if he wipes his ass just like everyone else does, then I must assume that what comes out of his mouth if it sounds as if God himself is speaking down to us from Heaven through His charming channel of piety, is damn very well suspect on all counts and then some.

 Ps 2 the BS:   I've also heard that the 'object' which hits said water is not man-made but is per various interpretations of Revelation a flaming asteroid sent forth by command from of all places, Heaven itself.


Canaduh's picture

So let me get the SA heirarchy straight-

#1. 88 year old man

#2. Dead, no replacement yet

#3. Dead, no replacement yet

No power vacuum there, nope. What's this , a 20 person council of princes decide on who #2 and #3 should be? That should work out well.

Praetor's picture

Peak Saudi Princes.

Gully Foyle's picture


From what I quoted before.

"200 princes out of 7000 family members, out for power struggle."

For "peak Saudi Princes", you would need to kill off a shit load, and their kids, and their bastard kids ( well with so many Gay Saudis there may not be that many bastard children)


Praetor's picture

Once the oil wells dry up, we'll go from Peak Princes to extinction in rapid succession.

Hedgetard55's picture

If there are as many gays Saudis as that poster claims, and it is because of the inaccessability of thier chicks, what explains all the gays in the USA, where the women are free and easy? I thought it was "genetic" nowadays.

Nage42's picture

Putting up with a fat, entitled, bipolar-unreasonable, media/hollywood brainwashed American women is a pretty big incentive to turn men gay... I'm just sayin'

Been in Asia 17+ years, never looked back...

flattrader's picture

>>>Been in Asia 17+ years, never looked back...<<<

Yes.  I see your point.  Without a huge population of women in grinding poverty, you'd never have one because they'd never look at you.

I'm just sayin' too.

Bringin It's picture

Hey flats - if a woman is living in the right environment, just because she is poverty stricken doesn't mean she is not awesome.

Go out and look around some time.  There are some amazing people in this world.  I find people living in somewhat intact cultures, who've somehow, so far avoided getting globalized to be especially interesting, with a lot to offer, that's otherwise been lost from the human experience.

By comparison, American woman and men, in general, are pretty vapid, unaware, lost souls.  Maybe this story will help you.

The New Water

One day, the mysterious prophet-saint Khidr told the world, “In a few days, all water throughout the earth from natural sources will disappear, and be replaced with new water that will make people crazy when they drink it. However, any water that is specially stored will not undergo this transformation.”

Only a man named Hasan paid attention to this, and he gathered water and stored it in anticipation of the change.

Three days later, just as Khidr said, the water from natural sources stopped running, and was replaced by a new variety of water.

Everybody drank the new water except for Hasan, who had saved and specially stored the original water. And soon Hasan noticed that all the people began acting differently, and that they had no knowledge Khidr’s prophecy or of the day that the waters were changed.

When Hasan began interacting with the people, they thought that he was crazy, and they ostracized him.

Hasan continued to drink his stored water for a few more weeks, but he could not take the loneliness anymore, and he decided to drink the new water and become like everyone else.

From then on, the people regarded Hasan as a former madman who had his sanity renewed.

flattrader's picture

While I would like to think that our friend's motives are pure and true re: this--

>>>...I find people living in somewhat intact cultures, who've somehow, so far avoided getting globalized to be especially interesting, with a lot to offer, that's otherwise been lost from the human experience...<<<

Face it.  So-called "intact cultures" are patriarchal by and large...and brutally so.  Women are subserviant.  Grinding poverty assures our friend a stable of women to do his bidding.

Losers go to Asia for women when they can't deal with women in the U.S.  That is whey there is a thriving sex tourism trade there...and we won't even talk about what goes on with children.

You're either naieve or an apologist or a participant...and your little story a diversion.

You go out and take a look around at the heinous crap going on in so-called "intact cultures"...not so awesome.



Seize Mars's picture

Good reporting, but I think it's fairly well understood that Saud = CIA. Or Exxon, or whatever. So any "instability" in Saudi Arabia will be nicely scripted.

prodigious_idea's picture
  • The CIA knew this was coming, if not in real-time then not monitoring as close as possible.
junkyardjack's picture

The king is 89 and his heir is 78, investors weren't even considering what happens when they die.  Sounds about right...

saulysw's picture

I found the article an excellent read - worth the time for sure.

Bringin It's picture

Generally I agree, but this was kind of a stinker -

Concerns about the Muslim Bros. being a beneficiary of the uprising in Syria has the Saudi kingdom proceeding caustiosly in supporting the rebels there, even though the ouster of the Syrian regime represents the single best option to weaken the threat from Iran.

The Sunni/Shia thing has been inflamed by Zato in the time-tested divide and conquer, Heglian mishmash.  Stratfor has their part to play in promoting this agenda.

If the Saudis are showing restraint, maybe it is not the MB that the Saudis are concerned about, but that the Syrians might return the arm-the-opposition favor?

Iconoclast's picture

No panic, the disgusting regime simply finds another misogynist with a small goatee and equally tiny dick to assume power..

savagegoose's picture

i say massive unrest and fundy  muslims take over sadi

AnAnonymous's picture

How excitingly put by the US citizen stratfor Institute.

GMadScientist's picture

Get back to work making iPhones.

Misean's picture

Seee, now THAT is a REAL black swan.

mick_richfield's picture

This moment in history reminds me of the .. was it a Farside cartoon?  -- where an airline pilot is looking through a small gap in the heavy clouds, and he is saying to his copilot --

"Hey!  What's that mountain goat doing up here in all these clouds?"

Bangin7GramRocks's picture

SHIT! Another black swan event. Oh well, back to the gold, guns and canned food stores. Then I'll be headin down to my bunker again. I just hope the world is still there when I emerge. Godspeed!

AnAnonymous's picture

If there are enough black swans dancing around when you emerge, maybe you will be able to shoot them down and feast on them.

Swans are royal meat, no matter their colour.

falak pema's picture

they didn't tell us how many women were in bed with him when he popped the weasal. If it was his whole harem its understandable. There comes a time in the affairs of men...peace on his soul, he died bravely, in my novel! 

GMadScientist's picture

So, does this mean everyone (who isn't Saudi) dodges a bullet because they were already ducking to avoid getting hit by Greece?

Marco's picture

So ... any Saudi Arabian princes in line in favour of the gold dinar? (Which of course would cause the US to start another war in the Middle East, because if there is one country in the world utterly incapable of operating under a gold standard at the moment it is the United States.)

GMadScientist's picture

I'm sure there are many devout princes who would love to see a true Muslim dinar used for currency, but the truth of Saudi life is that they live at the behest of the G7/20 oil importers. Their people fucking hate them because they are a repressive conservative regime and would slaughter House Saud if their protectors cast them out. So they know better than to attempt to screw with dollar hegemony (at least in public markets anyway).


savagegoose's picture

sure they can operate unser a gold standard. they just have to confiscate  EVERYONE ELSES gold to.

Marco's picture

The New York Fed gold deposits would fund the US trade deficit for less than a year ... so no, not really.

I am Jobe's picture

Shit. Did he care to leave some oil behind for me. F this shit. Build the Sphinx and bury the bastard.

bigwavedave's picture

Fucking Ragheads. Cant even man a decent hospital. Dying in Geneva. When are people going to realize that Osama Bin Laden had a point. Even if his methods were atrocious?

Bringin It's picture

Dave - your avatar's got a point.  Two, in fact.

Schacht Mat's picture

Great commentary Offthebeach.  Saudi Arabia is indeed a place that cannot be explained, but must be experienced.  When working on the pipelines in Saudi back n the 80's, I had some exposure to this inane land.  For example: on one hand, we were forbidden alcohol in the compound (foreign worker's compound - we had to be segregated from Saudi society) and the Wahabbi's would regularily show up to search for hidden stashes, while on the other hand, Saudi military would show up a day or two before the "surprise" raid, to warn us of it, and even pointed out where the soil was soft from the previous crew's digging when they had to bury their stash due to a raid.  They always recommended burial in the sand, followed by parking a jeep over the spot (no - not with the wheels on the booze ...) and then spilling a little gasoline around (many fuel tanks leaked from continually hitting rocks - pipe access roads were not a pretty sight)to throw off the dogs (they couldn't smell alcohol but they could smell where a bunch of people had recently been - the gasoline took care of that).  And riding across the desert on a Toyota 4x4 at a ridiculous speed at 2 in the morning with the headlights turned off (light at night in the desert apparently offends Allah?) was a another treat to be forgotten.  As we were running directional survey through the desert in the days before GPS, we needed an expert on satelite triangulation to maintain line.  We were given a very nice young female PhD who knew her stuff, but keeping her away from some Bedouin's harem was another matter.  In the end, we had to return to Riyadh, were a government official formally claimed her for some Crown Prince's harem, and then immediately gifted her back as property of the survey crew chief.  This way she was already owned and no nomadic chieftain et al could now claim her for his own.  The marvels of central government in a tribal country never ceased to amaze me.  And homosexuality was rampant down there, especially in the cities where the Wahabbi's could keep an eye on the comings and goings of women.  It was a little different in the desert, where the chietain was truly the master of his tribe - of course there the value of life was also much cheaper - and for anyone familiar with Saudi punishnments for crime, this should tell you something.  I know some things have changed a little in Saudi since those days, but from what I hear from some people I know who now reside there, much is still the same.  Throw in the predominantly Shiite restless population in the region of the Ghawar oil field into the mix, and should succession be less than smooth, you have the makings of a real mess.  When all sides - Sunni moderate (when compared to Wahabbi's), Sunni Wahabbi and Shiite are all screaming "Allahu Akbar" at each other just before trying to slice each other up, you have a situation that is fundamentally unresolvable in that less than stable land.

prodigious_idea's picture

I am captivated by stories like yours of people and their country that intrigue, yet will not be visited by most.  Thank you for sharing.

lolmao500's picture

When all sides - Sunni moderate (when compared to Wahabbi's), Sunni Wahabbi and Shiite are all screaming "Allahu Akbar" at each other just before trying to slice each other up, you have a situation that is fundamentally unresolvable in that less than stable land.

Fearmongering! Allahu Akbar means ``how ya doing, fine? Me too!`` in arabic! They are about to sing kumbaya together!

mh505's picture

Fascinating tale, Schacht Mat. This is the kind of backstory we need to have more often !

RacerX's picture

I sure hope they aren't going to interrupt Idol because of this.

New American Revolution's picture

We're dancing around the Wahhabis, and that is the problem.   And now we come to find that they're all a bunch of butt stuffers on top of it?   Sweet Baby Jesus, Mohammad was right, there is only the horns of Satan which will come from Narif.    That is what is behind the Brotherhood.   And now people will just be waking up....


Dr. No's picture

Who gives a shit.  A potential monarch dies.  They should all die.  How about haveing an election?  That also works for choosing a leader.

CrashisOptimistic's picture

They'd elect a Shiite, and Iran would control those oil fields.  You okay with that?

Dr. No's picture

Are you okay repressing the will of the people so Americans can buy cheap oil? I say let them do what they want over ther.  We will survie, they wont.

Burticus's picture

Just another example of oligarchy, rule by the elite few, the most common form of gubmint throughout history and today.

Under this form of gubmint, the Sheeple have no rights, only privileges dispensed by the ruling elite.  Since the free enterprise economic system can only exist under a republican form of gubmint, these states all have fascist, socialist and communist economic systems that only serve to preserve the power and wealth of the oligarchs.

Since tyrants never relinquish power voluntarily, the Saudi oligarchy is protected by the dominant military power on the planet (as long as they sell their oil only for FeRNs) and their Sheeple are disarmed, they better get used to the taste of camel $#!+ on the rulers' jackboots.