Saudi Arabia is neither an island of tranquility in a turbulent Arab sea nor a country on the verge of revolution. Rather, it is a kingdom in regression, plagued by regular reshuffling of princes and lacking energetic leadership with a serious vision for the future. Its aging king, Abdullah, has had two of his most senior brothers, Minister of Interior Naif and Minister of Defense Sultan, die within the last two years while he continues to hold on to the reins of power as an honorable senior member of an expanding clan-turned-corporation. All King Abdullah can do these days is micromanage the demands of the second-generation princes eager to secure a political post after his death, hence he regularly reshuffles. […]
Such reshuffles are bound to accelerate in the future, simply because the first rank of the royal clan is advanced in age, and each senior prince wants to ensure that his mini-fiefdom survives his death. Nothing will ensure this except the placement of a son in a senior government position. Needless to say, these reshuffles are a private family affair, with ordinary Saudis serving as mere spectators on the receiving end of sudden decisions. Saudi citizens have never had a say in such matters, which are driven by the balance of power between powerful clans within the Saudi royal family.