Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz of Saudi Arabia – who was next in line to the throne is no more.
His passing has left the Middle-East is in the throes of an identity crisis.
According to Al Arabiya channel, he passed away Saturday in Geneva.
The current monarch Abdullah is 88 years old.
There are three clear schisms in the Islamic World.
The largest Islamic sect owes allegiance to the Sunni sect – whose spiritual headquarters is in Saudi Arabia.
That sect is a divided house.
A large section is demanding reforms.
The young and the irreverent Western-educated ‘brats’ of the Arab world have had enough of autocratic geriatric dictators who have so far ruled the Middle-East with iron hands sans any velvet glove.
Islamic world’s despots are falling like ninepins now.
Some of the chaps who exited mother earth’s domain rather ingloriously:
Osama bin Laden
Ex-Egyptian boss Hosni Mubarak has been convicted of serious offences. The economic coffin of this proud nation – once a poster for tourism on the idyllic Nile is being ceaselessly nailed. Meant to be a window to deal with the hardliners in Israel, Egypt is now orphaned by one and all in the West … as its population is not prepared to play ball.
Ben Ali of Tunisia [who triggered the Arab Spring, incidentally some two years back] has found refuge in Saudi Arabia.
Syria’s desert town of Homs is the newest killing field.
The UN peace-keeping observers have already thrown in the towel.
Winds of change are sweeping other nations like Yemen.
The international joke of a nation’s ‘elected’ leader Hamid Karzai [referred to derisively as the Mayor of Kabul] is sitting over a vast natural reserve worth over a dozen trillion US dollars twiddling his thumbs on the great question – to be or not to be in cahoots with the world’s only ‘constitutional entity’ that officially sponsors terrorism and challenges the might of NATO – the very body that keeps that nation alive week after week through doles.
Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari [with huge connections in Dubai – another Middle-East city] is a wanted man in at least one nation other than his own.
His Prime Minister Gilani has been asked to proceed against his own boss 20 times by Pakistan’s Supreme Court … in vain.
Pakistan’s army boss Kayani is reportedly preparing for a coup.
Iran is at the edge of being bombed for its alleged attempt to create a nuke weapon in the name of peace!
The world has conveniently forgotten that Osama one of the ‘parents’ of Al Qaeda was of Saudi extraction.
One of the longest serving kings – Abdullah of the House of Saud has outlived two designated successors.
A rather remote man, Abdullah never reveals his real intentions about anything, sources in Riyadh say.
His line on the future of OPEC is a bundle of ambiguous statements.
Saudi oil fields may run dry in some 20 odd years.
Hence, its position as OPEC boss in itself will soon be challenged.
And Abdullah isn’t in the pink of health.
The deceased Nayef’s brother, Defence Minister Prince Salman — another geriatric gentleman with nearly a dozen ailments is the next in the line to the Saudi throne.
Prince Nayef’s death has created a huge question mark in a bright green neon sign over the darkened Saudi horizon.
Nayef is said to have vehemently exposed the Talibanisation of the Islamic world.
Unlike his brother Nayef who was an open critic of Al Qaeda and demanded a ‘meaningful evolution of Islam’, Salman is a quiet guy.
His ill-health may force him to opt to play the docile, traditional, and ruler-in-waiting till King Abdullah fades away.
The Western-educated brat-pack in the Middle-East isn’t going to be that ‘domesticated’.
For one, Iran’s doomed insistence on developing a ‘nuclear capacity for perfectly peaceful use’ is widening the fjord between the world at large and the Shia sect of Islam that Tehran represents.
The younger scions of the Sunni sect spread all over Arabia want to utilise the opportunity to crush Iran once and for all.
That is the considered opinion of Simon Henderson – a respected expert on the Gulf affairs with special emphasis on the House of Saud in the Washington Institute of Near East Policy.
“Saudi Arabia will have to decide on various issues and seek answers to the question – is this the time to set the next generation on the path to rule?” he was quoted as saying.
Following 9/11, the hard-line interior minister Nayef virtually snuffed out Al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia.
In all likelihood, the Allegiance Council, an organisation comprising sons and grandsons of the first Saudi monarch, King Abdul-Aziz will ‘elect’ the 76-year-old Salman as the future king.
A totally ultra conservative Muslim, the next in line to the throne – Prince Salman has had his fair share of controversy.
He had been accused by a few insurance companies as the Saudi Arabian conduit of funds to Al Qaeda.
In 2008, a New York court had sidestepped the diplomatic minefields by ruling that all members of the Saudi royal family enjoyed immunity from such lawsuits.
King Abdullah’s son Mitab, the head of the Saudi National Guard and Nayef’s son Mohammad, a senior official in the interior ministry will be jockeyed into more pivotal positions, sources aware of developments in Saudi Arabia said.
“The death of Nayef and a possible struggle to find the successor of King Abdulla could be the much needed wake-up call for the Wahhabi Sect and shaking its stranglehold of the Saudi throne,” said Niyaz Rauf an Islamic scholar who lives in London.
As the Governor of the Saudi capital Riyadh, the unofficial chief of the Wahhabi sect, Nayef had developed the nondescript conservative, somewhat apolitically political capital of Islamic Sunni sect into a burgeoning city bursting at the seams with a virtually insatiable thirst for political power for the Western-allied Gulf states fuelled by the Middle-East oil dollars.
The Wahhabi sect’s edicts legitimise the House of Saud to be the spiritual and political capitals of Islam – Mecca and Sunni Riyadh respectively. It also opposes any kind of freedom or authority to women – something totally contrary to what Prophet Muhammad [PBUH] did during his life.
Nayef was the head of an influential group known as the “Sudairi seven”.
The group comprises the sons of the late King Abdul-Aziz and wife Hussa bint Ahmad Sudairi.
Their marriage helped cement the king’s rule over the patchwork of tribes in Saudi Arabia akin to the feat of Prophet Muhammad [PBUH].
After the passing of Nayef, Salman is its head.
According to Sami al-Faraj, director of the Kuwait Centre for Strategic Studies, Salman and Nayef were the peas of the same pod.
“Nayef was the implicit behind the scenes operator of the most powerful Sudairi Seven. Salman is its public face – the more explicit one,” al-Faraj has been quoted as saying.
Nayef was described by The White House in its obituary statement as a person who had “dedicated himself to the security of Saudi Arabia as well as security throughout the region.”
“Under his leadership, the United States and Saudi Arabia developed a strong and effective partnership in the fight against terrorism, one that has saved countless American and Saudi lives,” the White House said.
Some of the salient features of Nayef’s policies:
“Saudi Arabia shall never sway from and never compromise on its adherence to the puritanical Wahhabi doctrine. The ideology is the source of the kingdom’s pride, success and progress and also guards the purity of Islam,” Nayef said during a meeting of clerics immediately after having been named crown prince last November.
Nayef had openly opposed reforms proposed by King Abdullah who attempted to democratise the nation by augmenting women’s rights, like driving a car, getting nominated to the Shura Council, an unelected advisory body to the king that is the closest thing to a parliament in Saudi Arabia.
In 2009, Nayef ordered closed a film festival in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah, expressing fears over the ‘unislamic gender mixing in cinemas using the immoral medium of movies that could lead to dilution and degeneration of the faith’.
From the diplomatic cables leaked by Julian Assange, one learnt that in 2009, the US Embassy described Nayef as “A firm authoritarian at heart”.
In 2002, Nayef confirmed to the wire service Associated Press that 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers were Saudis.
He was first one to do so officially from Saudi Arabia.
In 2009, Al-Qaeda terrorists attempted to assassinate his Nayef’s son, deputy interior minister and counter-terrorism operations commander Prince Muhammad.
Since then Saudi Arabia began helping Yemen to hunt down all Al Qaeda operatives in that nation.
Nayef had also launched an “intensive rehabilitation programme” for nabbed Al Qaeda militants to teach “Correct Islam”.