Abdulaziz Saud

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-Shi‘a 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 Abdullah’s move as an open message to the Iranian that he is not in agreement with his half-brother Na’if who has pinned the blame for the Khobar bombing on Iran.

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.

Abdullah’s 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.

Abdullah’s move occurred at the same time as a significant editorial in the Saudi daily, Al-Riyadh. The editor, a full Sudeiri, described Sultan’s 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.

xxxxxAbdullah’s 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. Abdullah’s 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 Abdullah’s death before that of Fahd’s. They say, even though Fahd’s stroke left him with diminished mental powers, Abdullah has a very weak heart. Apparently their medical consultants have given Fahd a little longer than Abdullah.

The invitation extended by Abdullah to the Iranian official and Al-Riyadh’s 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 issue—that 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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