The UPI is reporting King Fahd has been dead since Wednesday.
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, May. 27 (UPI) -- 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. The government also canceled all military leave, "a sure sign that something is happening," said the Saudi Institute.
The Saudi King has been in poor health for some time. Whether or not he is dead now he cannot be expected to live much longer. A background interview in Front Page argues that Saudi Arabia is in a crisis stemming directly from misrule by the Saudi Royal house, against which the US has been reluctant to move for fear that it would raise oil prices and upset a plethora of financial deals. The aftermath of King Fahd's stroke in 1995 provoked the same strange cancellation of military leave and strange comings and goings that mark recent events. Robert Baer recalled:
If I had to pick a single moment when the House of Saud truly began to fall apart, it would be when Abdul Aziz ibn Saud's son Fahd, who has been king since 1982, suffered a near fatal stroke, in 1995. As soon as the royal family heard about Fahd's stroke, it went on high alert. From all over Riyadh came the thump-thump of helicopters and the sirens of convoys converging on the hospital where Fahd had been taken. ...
The arrivals included all the pretenders and court jesters of the Saudi Royal house, including an assortment of fixers, expatriate wastrels and plain wastrels, in which the least colorful was a prince who rode "a Harley-Davidson inside his father's palace, chasing servants and smashing furniture".
At this point Fahd's brothers were calling doctors in the United States and Europe. They wanted to know not whether Fahd would ever recover his mental capacities, or what kind of life he would be able to live, but what it would take to keep his heart beating and his body warm. Money, of course, wasn't a problem. ... The doctors couldn't understand the reasoning behind the questions--but only because they didn't understand the politics of the kingdom. What the family knew and the doctors didn't was that Crown Prince Abdullah had long been eager to take power. The only way to keep him at bay was to keep Fahd alive--God willing, until Abdullah died.
Abdullah eventually ascended to become the power behind the throne, but Fahd's death or imminent demise now raises the question of who will occupy it permanently. The failure of US policy toward Saudi Arabia was recently the subject of a symposium featuring Daniel Pipes, Michael Ledeen, Stephen Schwartz -- none of them liberals. Bottom line: "The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has never been a 'friend'" but America pretends otherwise. A sample of the symposium is shown below:
Do you think American policymakers have dealt competently with the KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia)?
Pipes: No, I can think of no country where American interests are less well upheld than with Saudi Arabia. The Saudi ambassador to Washington in part once explained why: "If the reputation . . . builds that the Saudis take care of friends when they leave office," Bandar bin Sultan said, "you'd be surprised how much better friends you have who are just coming into office." In part, the lack of assertiveness results from the phenomenon so well described by a former U.S. ambassador to Riyadh: "it's amusing to see how some Americans liquefy in front of a foreign potentate, just because he's called a prince."
Ledeen: No, both because we have failed to insist on liberalization of the kingdom — it was only a matter of time before we turned on a regime that oppressed women and forbade the practice of western religions even on our own bases and in our own embassies — and because our diplomats somehow failed to notice that the Saudis were creating a global network of extremist schools and mosques, dedicated to the destruction of the Western world. That strikes me as perhaps the greatest of all the celebrated intelligence failures leading up to 9/11.
Schwartz: The failure of U.S. officials to recognize the true nature of Wahhabi-Saudi totalitarianism represents the biggest and worst failure in the entire history of American foreign relations.
A warm mantle of protection was thrown over the Kingdom by oil companies and influential persons from both parties eager to be in the good graces of the Saudi Royal House once they had returned to "private life"; it was a mantle only barely ruffled by 9/11. Baer recalls:
As for the CIA, the Agency let the State Department take the lead and decided simply to ignore Saudi Arabia. The CIA recruited no Saudi diplomats to tell us, for instance, what the religious-affairs sections of Saudi embassies were up to. The CIA's Directorate of Intelligence avoided writing national intelligence estimates--appraisals, drawn from various U.S. intelligence services, about areas of potential crisis--on Saudi Arabia, knowing that such estimates, especially when negative, have a tendency to find their way onto the front pages of U.S. newspapers, where they might have an undesired effect on public opinion. The CIA's line became the same as State's: There's no need to worry about Saudi Arabia and its oil reserves. No need to worry, of course, means business as usual--and for decades now that's meant that almost every Washington figure worth mentioning has been involved with companies doing major deals with Saudi Arabia.
The sentiments were echoed in the Pipes-Ledeen-Schwartz symposium. America buried its head in the sand of Saudi money.
Mr. Pipes notes that he can think of "no country where American interests are less well upheld than with Saudi Arabia." What does all of this say about a part of the American character?
Schwartz: There is a simple explanation and it has nothing to do with the American character or culture. It has to do with the failure of U.S. antitrust policy to effectively control the Standard Oil successors, ExxonMobil and ChevronTexaco above all. Big Oil has protected the Wahhabi-Saudi dictatorship for 65 years. This is not the fault of ordinary American citizens. But if anybody besides the executives of Big Oil bears responsibility for the problem, it would be the political leaders who identified the affairs of Big Oil with the business of the U.S. government.
Baer, no admirer of GWB, puts matters bluntly:
Washington's answer for Saudi Arabia--apart from repeating that nothing is wrong--is to suggest that a little democracy will cure everything. ... It's utter nonsense, of course. If an election were held in Saudi Arabia today ... and if people could vote their hearts without fear of having their heads cut off afterward in Chop-Chop Square, Osama bin Laden would be elected in a landslide--not because the Saudi people want to wash their hands in the blood of the dead of September 11, but simply because bin Laden has dared to do what even the mighty United States of America won't do: stand up to the thieves who rule the country.
The death of King Fahd -- which cannot now be long delayed -- brings America and the world to a crucial fork in the road. As Dr. McCoy once put it, "he's dead, Jim". Or soon will be.