Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Saudi Crown Prince and Defense Minister Prince Sultan is reported near death from incurable pancreatic disease

Washington, DC (January 27, 2009). There have been speculative reports about Crown Prince Sultan’s deteriorating health. CDHR has recently received reliable information that Prince Sultan is close to death from advanced pancreatic disease. Prince Sultan, who was appointed Defense Minister in 1962, came to New York on November 23, 2008 to seek treatment. According to credible sources, Prince Sultan was told there was nothing that could be done to save him. He is reported to be resting in Morocco now, but no more information was given out as to why he is in Morocco. Some Saudi eye witnesses reported seeing a large number of Saudi security personnel wandering in the main cemetery in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, a few days ago. Such activities happen only when a senior member of the Royal Family passes away.

CDHR has also received information regarding a fierce competition between Prince Sultan’s sons and one of their uncles, Prince Abdul Rahman, who happens to be a deputy Defense Minister and has been rearranging the ministry to take over even before Sultan passes away.

Prince Sultan has maintained a strong alliance with the United States and is seen by many Saudis as a powerful and decisive figure. His death could create royal crises and a leadership vacuum in an important, but unstable country that is threatened by internal and external forces.

The newly elected U.S. President Obama, the world community, and the people of Saudi Arabia could be facing a very critical succession of power in Saudi Arabia. All those concerned with the welfare of the people of Saudi Arabia hope this succession will be peaceful, and that state affairs will be placed in able and prudent hands. The Royal Family has planned a process, by means of the Allegiance Commission (created in 2006), designed to help this occur. However, the process is supposed to take place after Sultan’s ascent to the throne. His departure before the process takes effect could trigger an unprecedented family feud and could strengthen King Abdullah and his wing of the ruling family, an event many Saudis, including some prominent royals, would like to see happen.

The basic problem is that Saudi Arabia is using an archaic family system for the control of the state, and the succession of power. Under the current plan, the focus of power is reserved for the Royals. If their system falters, the country can falter. The ruling family has banned the evolution of civil society, political parties and political alternatives. A breakdown of the current system could have grave consequences for Saudi Arabia, the world, and the United States because of its close ties to the Saudi monarchy.

However, the Saudi royal family has a habit of keeping senior royals on life support for years, as is the case of former King Fahd, who was struck with a heart attack in 1996 and was kept alive until 2005. This is normally done to allocate the power of the departing family member properly before they let him die.

CDHR promotes the peaceful evolution of more democratic forms of governance, including the spread of free elections which include women, the devolution of responsibilities to elected officials, and openness and public accountability in public affairs. We understand that this can take time, and that the citizens and the Royals would have to grow into their new roles. However, taking this direction, in the long run, will bring stability and peace to Saudi Arabia.

We hope the upcoming succession process will be peaceful, inclusive and productive. We have no favorite or enemy in the succession process. We want the best for the people of Saudi Arabia, but what we are promoting is a better and more participatory system where all citizens share in the decision-making processes.

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