Friday, May 27, 2005

King Fahd Is Dead?
Long Live The King

Considering the surreal circus that developed around the death of Arafat (where for several weeks after his apparent date of death, we were treated to alternating reports that he was dead, or not dead, or improving, or even iceskating. Ok, I made that last one up, but still...) it could be that King Fahd is already beneath the sod. From Associated Press:

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) - King Fahd, whose efforts to strengthen ties between Saudi Arabia - the world's largest oil exporter - and the United States provoked the wrath of Islamic militants, was hospitalized Friday, apparently suffering from pneumonia.

Fahd's half brother, Crown Prince Abdullah, has been Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler since Fahd suffered a debilitating stroke in 1995. Abdullah is expected to become king should Fahd die.
Fahd's hospitalization triggered reports that an emergency had been declared in the kingdom.
Officials said on condition of anonymity that an alert had been declared and that military leaves had been canceled or at least discouraged. However, this was firmly denied by the Interior Ministry.

"This is absolutely not true," ministry spokesman Mansour al-Turki said. "There's no canceling of leaves and no state of emergency or anything."

The official Saudi Press Agency said that Fahd, who is believed to be 82, was admitted to King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh for unspecified medical tests.

But reports of Fahd's deteriorating health had been blamed for sending the Saudi stock market tumbling 5 percent earlier in the week. Friday's news that he was taken to a hospital helped push crude oil futures to near $52 a barrel ahead of the U.S. Memorial Day holiday weekend, the start of the American summer driving season.

Saudi Arabia's strategic importance as the holder of the world's largest oil reserves and the fact that it is home to Islam's two holiest shrines means even a stable succession could impact world markets and have widespread political fallout.

"We ask God to keep and protect the Custodian of the Two Holy Shrines, grant him health and well-being," said the royal office statement announcing the hospitalization, carried by the Saudi Press Agency.

During his rule, Fahd brought the kingdom closer to the United States. His most significant action was a step that enraged many Islamic extremists - allowing the basing of U.S. troops on Saudi soil after the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

Bin Laden, the al-Qaida leader, cited the U.S. troops' presence as a main provocation for launching the Sept. 11 attacks as well as a wave of violence inside the kingdom.

The U.S. military withdrew all its combat forces from Saudi Arabia in 2003 after major combat operations in Iraq were declared over. But a small military contingent stayed behind in a training and advisory role to Saudi armed forces.

The United States and Saudi Arabia have been talking in recent months about organizing joint training exercises for U.S. and Saudi ground combat forces on Saudi territory.

During his rule, Fahd tried to balance overtures toward the West with concessions to hard-liners, hoping to boost his Islamic credentials.
LGF confirms it. Fahd is Dead.