Saudi Arabia has a new king for the first time in a decade, following the death of King Abdullah on Thursday after a long illness. His half-brother Crown Prince Salman swiftly assumed the throne. CCTV’s Yasser Hakim reported this story from Cairo.
Death of King Abdullah could impact U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia
Dignitaries from around the world traveled to Riyadh to attend the funeral on Friday, just one day after news of the king’s death sent shockwaves throughout the region.
The ceremony was simple as the body was taken to the Imam Turk mosque in Riyadh, where visitors prayed for the king. It was then moved to a cemetery to be buried by the king’s family. Saudi Arabia on Friday also endorsed the new King Salman bin Abdel Aziz who said that he would follow in the footsteps of his predecessor and half-brother.
“We will, with god’s will and power, adhere to the straight path this country followed since its establishment by King Abdul Aziz and his sons after him, and will not deviate at all from it, since our constitution is the book of Allah and the teachings of Prophet Mohammed,” King Salman said.
A former defense minister and advisor to the late king, Salman has pledged to continue the policies of Abdullah, at home and abroad.
The new king faces several challenges in the Middle East, including a resurgence of extremism on the kingdom’s borders in Yemen to the south, and from al-Qaida to the north.
Late Saudi King Abdullah laid to rest in austere ceremonySaudi Arabia has a new king for the first time in a decade, following the death of King Abdullah on Thursday after a long illness. His half-brother Crown Prince Salman swiftly assumed the throne. CCTV's Yasser Hakim reported this story from Cairo.
“The Arab and Islamic nation is in bad need for unity and solidarity and we will continue, on our path, to do what is possible for uniting our stance and defending our nation’s cause,” King Salman said.
The king’s first decisions will be to name a new crown prince, a new deputy prime minister, and name his son as minister of defense and head of the Royal Court.
After the completion of succession in Saudi Arabia many wonder how the country will move forward after the death of its king. CCTV America’s Jim Spellman reported this story from Washington, D.C.
After succession some wonder about future of Saudi Arabian policiesNow the line of succession is decided. The question is how Saudi Arabia will move forward both within the country and beyond its borders. CCTV America's Jim Spellman reported from Washington, D.C.
King Abdullah is being remembered as a reformer, but Saudi Arabia has long faced criticism from the West for crushing dissent in the kingdom and ignoring human rights, and what some see as brutal forms of punishment including beheadings.
In 2014, Raif Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in prison and given public floggings for hosting a blog critical of Saudi society.
“Raif Badawi’s case is one of our most tragic cases. Nothing has changed till now. Legally, he is still going be flogged every Friday. The only reason they are stopping is for his medical condition to improve, so they can hurt him again,” Salil Shetty, secretary general of Amnesty International, said. “So it is the most horrific medieval form of punishment. Saudi Arabia has also been doing public beheadings. We criticize the Islamic State, but here it’s a government that has done more than 60 public beheadings in the last few months.”
The role of women in the kingdom is also often criticized. Women must wear religious clothing when outdoors and aren’t allowed to drive. King Abdullah expanded some rights for women, but to many the change isn’t fast enough.
“This is a very Saudi way. We don’t like fast pace changes. We just don’t. We like to do them at a slow pace but with a sure movement,” Abdulateef Al-Mulhim, a columnist with The Saudi English Daily, said.
Al-Mulhim said this slow pace has helped Saudi Arabia remain stable while other countries in the region such as Yemen and Syria are dealing with instability and civil war.
Even during the uprisings known as the Arab Spring involving Libya, Egypt, Tunisia and other countries, Saudi Arabia remained calm, and the Royal family in firm control.
“The Saudi royal family and the government are very well structured, and the Saudi people are happy with what they have. There is stability. There is prosperity and it was easy to simply override the Arab Spring,” Al-Mulhim said.
The new king is not expected to make any major changes in policy. Al-Mulhim said the Saudi people would like to see some reforms and solutions to problems such as unemployment, but they are generally happy with their leaders. To some degree, Saudi Arabia may never see eye to eye on everything with the West and particularly with the United States, Al-Mulhim said.
“East is East and West is West, and it’s very difficult to adapt the American way in Saudi Arabia. It’s very hard to adapt the Saudi way in the United States,” Al-Mulhim said.
The relationship between the United States and the Saudis spans more than 80 years, marked by highs and lows, as Saudi Arabia spends billions on U.S. weapons and remains America’s number two source of foreign oil. CCTV America’s White House correspondent Jessica Stone reported on what the new king could mean for Washington’s interests in the region.
Death of King Abdullah could impact U.S. relations with Saudi ArabiaThe relationship between the United States and the Saudi's spans some 80 years and is marked by highs and lows. Saudi Arabia spends billions of dollars on U.S. weapons and remains America's number two source of foreign oil. CCTV America’s White House correspondent Jessica Stone reported on what the new king could mean to Washington's interests in the region.
Nearly three years after becoming crown prince, Salman bin Abdel Aziz now takes over as king.
Last March, he attended King Abdullah’s last meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama during a visit to Riyadh. White House aides said there was vigorous discussion on the Iran denuclearization talks and ISIL.
Differences over Iran still strain the relationship, while the fight against ISIL brings the U.S. and Saudi Arabia together against a common foe.
“We are hopeful and expect that kind of cooperation and coordination will continue under the leadership of King Salman,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said.
But with Yemen’s government now dissolving, there is a new source of instability in an already uneasy neighborhood. The White House pledged its support to the kingdom on Friday to keep al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula from creating a safe haven amid the power vacuum.
Over the years, U.S. leaders and Saudi kings have found themselves on opposite sides during the Cold War, then on the same side during the first Gulf War, followed by heightened tensions after 15 of the 19 September 11th hijackers were found to be Saudi citizens.
Throughout it all, oil has always been a major currency in the relationship. Recently Saudi business leaders have publicly worried that a glut of U.S. domestic oil would hurt their economy. It has contributed to the country’s largest budget deficit in history. However experts said the new Saudi king is unlikely to change production.
“I don’t see there being much of a reduction in supply coming out of Saudi Arabia, because it’s in the Saudi interest at least in the short term to let the prices below,” Zubair Iqbal of Middle East Institute said.
The White House said President Obama has not yet had a chance to speak with King Salman since his brother’s death. Vice President Joe Biden will lead a presidential delegation early next week to personally offer condolences to the royal family.