What the death of Fahd means for the Middle East and wider world

In the short term, probably very little. King Fahd had been on the throne since 1982, but suffered a series of debilitating strokes in 1995. Since then Crown Prince (now King) Abdullah, Fahd's half-brother, has in practice run the country. Thus the sons of the kingdom's founder King Abdel-Aziz remain in charge.

Abdullah has sought a balance between cautious reform and tackling terrorism. That strategy is likely to remain the same. However, Abdullah is believed to be marginally less pro-Western than his predecessor, whose most significant single decision was to allow US forces to be based on Saudi soil in 1990, when an invasion by Iraq was widely feared.

Now he is king in name as well as deed, he may shift the focus towards closer ties with other Arab states. Nonetheless, the alliance with the US and the West, based on mutual interests of oil and security, will remain the bedrock of Saudi foreign policy.

What will be the impact on the oil market?

Again, very limited, despite the small jump in crude prices after the news of Fahd's death. Saudi Arabia remains the world's largest exporter. It is likely to continue trying to prevent excessive market swings. But the recent surge in prices has been a windfall, allowing the country to press ahead with economic changes andreduce its dependence on oil (which accounts for 45 per cent of Saudi GDP).

What about terrorism?

The presence of "infidel" American troops in the country that guards the holiest shrines of Islam was one of the most powerful grievances voiced by Osama bin Laden. Over the past two years, Saudi Arabia (where 15 of the 11 September hijackers originated) has suffered a series of al-Qa'ida attacks targeting Saudis and expatriate workers. The Saudis claim to have captured or killed 23 of the 26 most wanted terrorists. But although there has been no major recent attack, no one believes the threat is over.

Who is Abdullah's successor?

Prince Sultan, 77, and a full brother of the late King Fahd, was named as crown prince.He is currently defence minister and a deputy prime minister. His power base is the army and he has long been a strong supporter of the US alliance. His son, Prince Bandar, was the influential Saudi ambassador in Washington for two decades until he resigned in July. Another of Sultan's sons, Prince Khalid, commanded Arab forces in the 1991 Gulf war. But the Sultan's age and fragile health - he had an operation for stomach cancer in 2004 -means his tenure may be relatively brief. Real change in Saudi Arabia may have to await the passing of the generational torch.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Fixed Term Contract - 6 Months

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the largest hospitality companies...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians - Fixed Wire Testing

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a result of significant cont...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£16575 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity is ava...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Executive

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading and innovative con...

Day In a Page

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue