King Abdullah, who ruled Saudi Arabia for the past decade, has died following being hospitalized for a lung infection on New Year’s Eve. He was 90.
Abdullah will be succeeded by his half-brother, Salman. However, Salman is no spring chicken. At 79, he has also had his share of health problems.
Abdullah’s death comes only hours after neighboring Yemen’s government has fallen following fighting against the Iranian backed Houthi rebels. This is music to the ears of the mullahs in Tehran.
Look I get that Saudi Arabia is no paradise. King Abdullah did not brook dissent. Indeed, earlier this month a blogger named Raif Badawi received 50 lashes on top of 10 year prison sentence and a $250,000 fine for criticizing the country’s clerics and morality police. In fact, Badawi is due to receive 950 more lashes over 19 more sessions. International pressure has forced the Saudis to twice postpone the next lashing session, but Badawi has to sit in a jail essentially for doing something I do every day.
Let’s also not forget that Saudi influenced Wahhabism is responsible for much of the Islamist thinking and violence in the world. Of course, 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers hailed from Saudi Arabia.
Nevertheless, King Abdullah was a bulwark against Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood and was fed up with the Obama Administration for its soft approach toward both. Abdullah even developed something a productive, if private working relationship with Israel. Salman is expected to pick up where Abdullah left off. Yet if that is the case, Salman’s reign may be shortlived. Combine that with the instability in Yemen, civil war in Syria, increased ISIS control of Iraq and Obama Administration’s eagerness to obtain a nuclear agreement with Iran, Tehran is sitting pretty. Which means things are getting ugly.