BRIEF: Reprecussions of Leadership Changes

With the passing of Saudi King Abdullah, what will change in the Kingdom?

Type: Brief

Date: May 6, 2015

Length: 4 Pages

What the Changes Mean for the US

In his doctoral thesis at George Washington University, now Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir wrote "Winston Churchill's description of the Kremlin as a 'riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma' is a close approximation of the way some modern-day observers interpret and see the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia."

For the most part, this seems true. Policy experts in the United States are still speculating on the reasons for the changes and what they could mean for US involvement in the Middle East. Brude Riedel, for example, admits that although the new formations in Saudi government are mostly pro-American, there are increasing doubts about reliability of the US as a Saudi ally – citing US actions that have increased Iranian influence in the region. Thus, analysts are expecting the recent shifts in the Saudi government to ease out some of the tensions with the US. The appointment of Adel al-Jubeir, previously ambassador to the US, as foreign minister, is seen as a crucial step in that regard.

According to Bruce Riedel, “Muqrin was a protégé of the late King Abdullah. He is not close to Salman's branch of the family, the Sudayris. He also appeared less enthusiastic about Salman's war in Yemen. As a former fighter pilot Muqrin understands the limits of air power…” Riedel also pointedly argues that both King Salman and his son have a personal stake in the war in Yemen.

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