Inigo Montoya: He’s dead. He can’t talk.
Miracle Max: Whoo-hoo-hoo, look who knows so much. It just so happens that your friend here is only MOSTLY dead. There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive. With all dead, well, with all dead there’s usually only one thing you can do.
Inigo Montoya: What’s that?
Miracle Max: Go through his clothes and look for loose change.
—–From the movie The Princess Bride.
According to the Arab Newspaper Al-Sharq il-Awsat, King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz absolute monarch of Saudi Arabia, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, Head of the House of Saud and Prime Minister an owner of facial hair which looks like it was drawn on with a pencil, is brain dead. His condition is as a result of complications from back surgery which took place in the National Guard’s King Abdulaziz Medical City eleven days ago.
The King’s aides claim he is in good health. But medical sources told the newspaper the monarch’s condition was “expected to change soon (perhaps after they are done going through his pocket for loose change).
The king’s brother, Crown Prince Salman (next in line to the throne), defense minister of Saudi Arabia, reassured the nation and members of the Gulf Cooperation Council meeting Riyadh “good news that he is well and in good health.” Salman also “reassured” Saudis about the monarch’s health the day before at a cabinet meeting, according to the SPA state news agency. Both statements were aimed at settling concerns over the stability of the nation, the world’s biggest exporter of oil.
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This may turn out to be very disturbing news for the stability of the region.
Saudi Arabia and its monarchy are relatively young, only 80 years ago in 1932, the two kingdoms of the Hejaz and Nejd were united as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. While the rulers themselves have been forces of stability in the Arab world, they have only kept power through repression. The Economist’s 2010 Democracy Index reported the Saudi government is the seventh most authoritarian regime from among the 167 countries rated (worse than China but not quite as bad as North Korea).
There is much opposition to the Monarchy within the kingdom, including radical Sunni Islamists (remember most of the 9/11 attackers came from this group) liberal critics; and the Shi’ite minority. The Islamic activists have been the most prominent threat to
the regime and have in recent years perpetrated a number of violent or terrorist acts in the country. One question becomes will the Sunni group use the impending death of the King as an opportunity for a “Saudi Spring?”
A second question becomes if the Islamists try and revolt against the monarchy will President Obama support the new king or will he trade stability in the region for the ideal of a “peoples government,” which is really just repression from a different source (as he did with Mubarak).