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Saudi Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud will visit the United States soon for medical tests according to state media. Prince Sultan, who is also the defence minister left the kingdom on a "private holiday", and medical tests in the United States, state media said in a brief report, also carried by Reuters.

 

Prince Sultan, who is about 86, hastily returned home in November from Morocco where he had spent several months recurpurating, following unspecified medical treatment in the United States. He returned then as his brother, King Abdullah was also overseas for medical treatment.

Prince Sultan had an intestinal cyst removed in Saudi Arabia in 2005.

 

Although apparently unrelated, King Abdullah, who is also de facto prime-minister, appears to have consolidated his control over government by moving the prime-minister’s court to the royal court, and relieving Prince Abdul Aziz bin Fahd from his duties as head of the prime-minister’s court. Abdul Aziz remains a government minister.

 

June 16-29, 2011

 

 

Analysis and Forecast: Increasing Risk


 

Prince Sultan has reportedly been suffering from terminal cancer. His return was hastily arranged to avoid creating a power vacuum in the absence of King Abdullah who was also overseas on medical treatment.

 

The apparent deterioration in the health of Prince Sultan, though not unexpected, appears to have strongly reignited the internal succession feud. Although apparently unrelated, the moving of Prince Abdul Aziz, son of the late King Fahd and of the so-called Sudeiri part of the family, indicates the re-alignment of key players within the royal family. Sudeiris are the sons of the kingdom’s founder, King Abdul Aziz, from his wife, Hessa bint Ahmad Al Sudeiri. They include, for example, Sultan and Nayef, but not Abdullah, who has a different mother. On the demise of King Abdullah, the current second in line to the throne is Prince Nayef. Nayef is fiercly conservative on the social front, and a hardliner when it comes to reforms and granting rights to the Shiites in the Eastern Province, is a likely successor. The key question is who will be made second in line to the throne, should Sultan be incapacitated or when he dies.

 

Succession will be determined by a family council, and is most likely to include at least two further sons of Abdul Aziz. The risks the ongoing events within the royal family carry are that there appears to be an increasing degree of polarization within the ranks of the family. This appears to include both the first generation sons of King Abdul Aziz, as well as within the second generation.

 

Although no firm information will be made available, the increasing tensions within the ranks of the family increase the overall risk the country faces, as well as undermines the progress of reforms. This in turn can lead to further inflaming the already tense situation in various parts of the kingdom, including Shiites in the Eastern Province, but more crucially in areas like Jeddah, where the local population is increasing calling for speedier reforms.