Home / Articles / King Abdullah’s Passing Brings More Uncertanty to a Troubled Middle East
The southern Gulf is in turmoil, and there is little that Washington can do about it. Even as President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demonstrate to all just how deep their mutual disdain runs, Saudi Arabia and Yemen both face uncertain futures, calling into question America’s own position in the Gulf.
The late Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz was more than just the cautious reformer who slowly improved the role of women in conservative Saudi society and expanded educational opportunities for all Saudis. He was also the moving force behind the Arab Peace Initiative, which offered to accept the reality of the State of Israel in the Middle East. This was no small matter. Abdullah’s formal title was the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques — the Grand Mosque in Mecca and the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina — and he was a major religious force in his own right. His support of that Initiative reflected both his courage and his common sense.
Abdullah was a genuine product of the Nejdi desert. He was a truly religious man, and, like all such men, was untainted by the corruption that is the mark of the hypocrite. He never seemed to have fallen sway to the wealth he inherited or the greed that can overwhelm even the truly rich.
Abdullah’s nightmare, indeed the Saudi nightmare, was to be caught between a Shiite pincer emanating from Iran to the northeast and Yemen to the southwest. He was fiercely opposed to the Iranian nuclear program, worried about Iranian influence in Saudi Arabia’s Shiite-dominated Eastern Province, and equally concerned about the potential influx of the far more numerous Yemenis across Saudi Arabia’s Najran, Jizan, and Asir provinces.