Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Dies and Salman Pledges Continuity

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia died early Friday, and his half brother, Salman, assumed the throne vowing to adhere to Saudi Arabia's policies.


King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia died early Friday, believed to be 90 years old. The Royal Court announced his death, but did not give details as to the cause. The king was admitted to a hospital in Riyadh on Dec. 31 with a lung infection. Abdullah’s half-brother, Salman, who is thought to be 79 and has served as governor of Riyadh province, assumed the throne. He gave a televised address shortly after Abdullah’s death pledging continuity, saying, “We will continue adhering to the correct policies which Saudi Arabia has followed since its establishment.” King Salman named another half-brother, Muqrin, as crown prince. He swiftly named Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef as deputy crown prince, for the first time appointing a grandson of Saudi Arabia’s first monarch, King Abdulaziz. Oil prices rose following the announcement of Abdullah’s death, though Salman is expected to continue Abdullah’s policy against cutting production.


Head of the U.S. Central Command, General Lloyd Austin, said the United States and Iraq have started preparing for an offensive by summer to retake the city of Mosul, which was seized by Islamic State militants in June 2013. Austin said preparations included selecting and training military units and cutting supply routes to the militants. He noted the U.S.-led coalition had made gains against the Islamic State militants, killing over 6,000 of its fighters and reclaiming 300 square miles of territory in Iraq. Since Wednesday, coalition forces carried out 16 airstrikes targeting Mosul.


  • Yemen’s President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi has resigned, along with the prime minister and his cabinet, protesting the overrunning of the capital of Sanaa by Houthi fighters.
  • Fighters allied with General Khalifa Hifter have seized control of the Benghazi branch of Libya’s central bank.
  • An Egyptian court ordered the release of Hosni Mubarak’s sons, Alaa and Gamal, pending their retrial in a corruption case, meanwhile protests have erupted ahead of the anniversary of the 2011 uprising.
  • Saudi Arabia has for the second time postponed the flogging of blogger Raif Badawi on health grounds.

Arguments and Analysis

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia obituary’ (Madawi al-Rasheed, The Guardian)

“King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who has died aged 90, promised much but accomplished little. By the time he came to the throne in 2005, he was 81 years old. And though he had gained considerable experience as acting monarch after his brother King Fahd’s stroke, he was beset by numerous difficulties – dynastic, democratic, religious, ideological, regional and global – and, with only rising oil revenues in his favour, found himself unable to address them to any significant extent.”

Could a U.N.-brokered pact save Libya?’ (Ben Fishman, The Washington Post)

“Whether he is familiar with the political science terminology or not, León is effectively trying to forge a ‘pact’ among moderates committed to Libya’s pluralistic future and isolate those continuing to protect narrow self-interests, be it a radical Islamic state, the return of a strongman, or the fracturing of the country. A moderate consensus has to grow around two principles: Certain members of the former regime will have a chance to participate in Libya’s future (the 2013 Political Isolation Law passed by the GNC under heavy pressure from militias sought to bar even middle ranking officials from future involvement in state affairs) and the majority of the HoR and their so-called secular allies must accept that there will be some role for political Islam in Libya’s future. That possible consensus – or pact – could form the basis for rescuing Libya.”

The End of Yemen?’ (Gregory D. Johnsen, BuzzFeed)

“With his government in tatters, Hadi had little choice but to step down. Gunmen loyal to the Huthi movement, a local Zaydi militia group, had surrounded his residence and forced him to capitulate to many of their demands after overrunning government installations throughout the capital earlier in the week.

Hadi’s desperate move is an attempt to call what he hopes is a Huthi bluff. By stepping down he is hoping that the Huthi movement, led by 33-year-old Abd al-Malik al-Huthi, will overplay its hand and that its alliance of convenience with former President Ali Abdullah Saleh will fracture. But it could also set off a chain reaction that leads to the dissolution of Yemen as it is currently configured.”

Mary Casey-Baker

Scott Nelson/KAUST via Getty Images

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