New Saudi King, Same Old Kingdom

King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud’s passing last Friday marked the beginning of King Salman Al Saud’s reign in Saudi Arabia, sparking questions surrounding the future of Saudi policy inside and outside the kingdom. At a time when Yemen faces its worst political crisis yet, Saudi-Iran competition for regional influence at a new high, and the ongoing battle to contain the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) rages, any departure from current policy could have a profound effect on regional dynamics. But not to worry, says Ambassador Richard LeBaron, a Nonresident Senior Fellow with the Atlantic Council.

In an interview with Ashish Sen, editor for the New Atlanticist blog, LeBaron says, “Continuity, cohesion, and consolidation will be the watchwords.” He describes how Saudi’s security posture will likely remain the same, particularly given that threat remain the same. The multiple crises in the region likely encourage a continuing consolidation of defense and security arrangements, including with the United States, France, and Britain. The US rapprochement with Iran as they near a nuclear deal will trouble Saudi who will remain suspicious of Iran’s intentions in the region, though the development does not necessarily negate a warming of relations over time.

Ultimately, LeBaron says, one must remember that no king rules alone. King Abdullah mitigated the uncertainty in the aftermath of his death by ensuring acceptance of the line of succession and maintaining a core circle of advisers and family members. As such, King Salman will likely walk the path laid out for him by King Abdullah.

Related Experts: Richard LeBaron

Image: The new King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. (Photo: Flickr)