Saudi King Fahd Hospitalized, Reported Dead

Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd has been hospitalized, CNN reports.

Saudi King Fahd hospitalized (CNN)

Saudi Arabia’s special forces were put on alert after King Fahd was hospitalized in Riyadh for tests Friday, the Saudi government said. The move is routine whenever the king is hospitalized, Saudi government sources told CNN on condition of anonymity. Members of the state-owned news media, who asked not to be identified, said they were told to be on standby for a possible announcement.

Fahd, who is in his 80s, suffered a stroke in 1995 and has been hospitalized several times during the past six months. Since his stroke, King Fahd’s half-brother Crown Prince Abdullah has run day-to-day operations of Saudi Arabia and is in line to inherit the throne.

Given that Abdullah has been in charge for a decade, I suspect there will be little real impact if Fahd passes.

Update (1731): Scott Koenig disagrees, noting,

The Saudi royal family is split between a “liberal” faction, centered on Fahd and six of his brothers (also known as the “Sudairi Seven“), and a more conservative group centered on the Crown Prince (the “Abdullah Faction“).

Should Fahd die, expect Abdullah to move quickly to consolidate power.


Update (0709, May 28): John Burgess has some insights at Crossroads Arabia, including pointing to an amusing story today in Arab News headlined “King Fahd in Good Health.”

Meanwhile, Digger (also here) points us to a UPI story headlined “King Fahd of Saudi Arabia reported dead” (also here)

Reliable sources in the Saudi capital Riyadh said Friday King Fahd is dead, reports the Saudi Institute. King Fahd of Saudi Arabia has been dead since late Wednesday, according to several well-placed sources in the capital Riyadh who spoke to the Saudi Institute, a pro-democracy think tank in Washington, on condition of anonymity.


A spokesman for the Saudi Institute told United Press International, “the official death of the king will be announced Saturday.”

Fahd’s death will impact the succession of the would-be king, Crown Prince Abdullah, who is half brother to the Sudairi Seven. The Sudairis share one mother and include Fahd, Defense Minister Sultan, Interior Minister Naif, Governor of Riyadh Salman and other Sudiaris who form the most powerful alliance in the ruling tribe of Al-Saud, according to the Saudi Institute.
“Abdullah will find it impossible to wrestle the throne away from the Sudairis who want to maintain power in their branch. The struggle between the Sudairis and Abdullah, if any, would be pose a greater threat to the regime than violent groups who have been engaged in at times fierce clashes with government forces,” reported the Saudi Institute.

That story is datelined May 27 and even the most recent stories on GoogleNews still have Fahd alive, however.

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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. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. John Burgess says:

    Nope, Scott’s wrong on this one. The Saudis have always had an orderly succession, even following the assassination of Faisal and the forced abdication of Saud. Abdullah has already “consolidated” power through regular means over the past 10 years. All he currently lacks to be the de jure ruler is the title.

    The interesting play will be, assuming Fahd’s death, the question of whom becomes the next Crown Prince. It’s not automatic that Sultan, currently 1st Deputy PM, will become Crown Prince, though that is how things have tended to work out in the past.

    It’ll be up to Abdullah, in consultation with the rest of the Al-Saud family, to decide who becomes CP. It is possible–though not terribly likely–that they could jump over an entire generation of Al-Saud to find a younger (say, in his 50s) member of the family. That would be big.

  2. Niraj says:

    King Fahd is reported to be “well” after he was taken to a hospital for pneumonia. Actually, King Fahd hasn’t been “well” since he suffered a devastating stroke nearly a decade ago.

    The man is brain dead, a vegetable, who’s only kept alive because his desperate relatives’ want to hold on to power as long as they can.

  3. John Burgess says:

    Niraj, you need to do some fact-checking, not pontificating….

    Fahd is not “brain dead”. He’s functional; he recognizes people and tells personal jokes about them. I’ve seen it with my own eyes as recently as 2002. But he’s not fit enough to run the country.

    He has managed to put a scare into his relatives through his insistence on driving himself around his compounds, though.

  4. Niraj says:


    Thanks for the correction. I got the information from one of Robert Baer’s book.