Saudi Crown Prince Nayef Dies

Saudi Arabia's monarchy has suffered the loss of Crown Prince Nayef, the successor 88-year-old King Abdullah.

Saudi Arabia’s monarchy has suffered the loss of Crown Prince Nayef, the successor 88-year-old King Abdullah.

CSM (“Saudi crown prince dies; successor uncertain“):

Crown Prince Nayef, the hard-line interior minister who spearheaded Saudi Arabia’s fierce crackdown crushing al-Qaeda’s branch in the country after the 9/11 attacks in the United States and then rose to become next in line to the throne, has died. He was in his late 70s.

Nayef’s death unexpectedly reopens the question of succession in this crucial U.S. ally and oil powerhouse for the second time in less than a year. The 88-year-old King Abdullah has now outlived two designated successors, despite ailments of his own. Now a new crown prince must be chosen from among his brothers and half-brothers, all the sons of Saudi Arabia’s founder, Abdul-Aziz.

The figure believed most likely to be tapped as the new heir is Prince Salman, the current defense minister who previously served for decades in the powerful post of governor of Riyadh, the capital. The crown prince will be chosen by the Allegiance Council, an assembly of Abdul-Aziz’s sons and some of his grandchildren.

The process was rather tumultuous the last go-round and will likely be even more so this time.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. John Burgess says:

    I’m not sure what ‘tumult last time’ you’re talking about. It went very smoothly. On Prince Sultan’s death, Naif move up into the Crown Prince slot from the holding position he’d been in.

    The only recent ‘tumult’. was in 2005, when King Fahd died and Abdullah got the thrown. He did not immediately name Naif as third-in-line and that bothered some while pleasing others.

    Naif’s death is probably the best outcome for the Saudis. He was reactionary and, had he succeeded Abdullah, would have moved the country’s reform efforts back at least a decade, if not a century. I’m sure that many Saudis are heaving a sigh of relief.

    Pr. Salman will move into Naif’s position, just as scheduled. He’s currently Minister of Defense, but had previously been Governor of Riyadh for close on 50 years. He’s not a cutting-edge modernist, but he’s not reactionary, either. He understands the need for change–something that Naif never did, until he couldn’t ignore it anymore–but will take a slow course when possible.

  2. James Joyner says:

    @John Burgess: It may be that I was thinking of the 2005 kerfuffle.

  3. Doesn’t Saudi Arabia have any princes that aren’t ancient? Calling someone in their late 70s a successor to someone in their late 80s seems like a joke.