Abdullah's invitation to Rafsanjani
Crown Prince Abdullah went beyond standard diplomatic protocol and invited
Rafsanjani of Iran to visit Saudi Arabia during a meeting in Islamabad.
The Crown Prince made sure journalists knew that the meeting itself was
very cordial. The principal question here is why Abdullah went further than
simple courtesy and showed such a warmth towards Iran despite his customary
Arabist and anti-Shia tendency. Seemingly, this trend towards Iran
is generally not a matter of course within the House of Saud. It is clear
that the Sudeiri wing of the family are pressing the United States of America
to retain a tough policy towards Iran and have adopted an aggressive stand
towards it in the GCC. Observers close to the royal family interpreted Abdullahs
move as an open message to the Iranian that he is not in agreement with
his half-brother Naif who has pinned the blame for the Khobar bombing
The cards that Abdullah holds in the dispute with the other wing of the
family are, however, limited. Unless Fahd dies, Abdullah cannot play the
legitimacy card while being simply Crown Prince. One has to admit that the
Sudeiri side of the House of Saud, with Fahd as its figurehead, are controlling
almost all the trump cards.
Abdullahs presence at the conference [WHICH ONE?] in Islamabad was
a golden opportunity for him to embarrass the other side of the family.
His saying to Rafsanjani, "here we are, the kingdom is open to you",
was intended to show his half-brothers that he did not care what they thought
or might say.
Abdullahs move occurred at the same time as a significant editorial
in the Saudi daily, Al-Riyadh. The editor, a full Sudeiri, described Sultans
recent visit [WHEN?] to America and Europe as a visit of the strong
man of Arabia. He went as far as to declare that Sultan was received
as a Head of State.
xxxxxAbdullahs move just as the editorial confirm the rumours of a
deep rift in the royal family and the potential for a major explosion. The
two parties are anxiously and threateningly standing face to face. Each
side has its own bargaining points. Abdullahs camp is bargaining on
the death of King Fahd when the door will be open for him to play the card
of his legitimate succession. The Sudeiris are bargaining for Abdullahs
death before that of Fahds. They say, even though Fahds stroke
left him with diminished mental powers, Abdullah has a very weak heart.
Apparently their medical consultants have given Fahd a little longer than
The invitation extended by Abdullah to the Iranian official and Al-Riyadhs
editorial are but one step away from an open struggle in the conflict over
the crown. For the moment the two parties are abiding by the only agreement
they made on this issuethat of not making the dispute too public.
This commitment, however, is likely to collapse very soon, to judge by the
course of events. Indications are, that after this year, the conflict will
eventually become public, if not bloody.
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