The list of candidates for royal succession in Saudi Arabia is lighter for one name: Crown Prince Nayef, the long-serving interior minister has died. King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud has appointed Prince Salman in his place, making him the official heir-apparent to the Saudi throne, report the BBC.
Nayef was a tough figure who masterminded Saudi Arabia's successful campaign against Al Qaeda militants. His hawkish stance on Iran made most people in Washington forget his theories of Israel's involvement in the 9/11 attacks (for two differing assessments of Nayef read Michael Stephens and Simon Henderson in Foreign Policy Magazine).
Prince Salman, who spent five decades as governor of capital Riyadh, strikes a somewhat more conciliatory note, but don't expect any immediate change in the way the Saudis run their country, or their relationship with the US. Saudi monarchs are not reclusive masters of the domain: they represent the Saudi royal family, and the family wants the things to stay as they are.
What is more worrying, however, is that the pool of senior royals is dwindling fast and there is no clarity on how the power will pass to a younger generation of princes. This makes the succession issue the single greatest challenge to the stability of the one Arab monarchy most resistant to change. Are there any plans in place?
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