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Feature Article
A Princely Rivalry: Clash Of The Titans? 2010-02-13
With a little-noticed marriage ceremony last month, an important alliance took shape between the families of the king and crown prince, representing a tacit acknowledgement of the growing power of Sultan and his sons.

by Senior Analyst Talal Kapoor

In Saudi tradition, and even more notably within the Al Saud, marriage alliances are rife with significance. Since the time of the seminal bond between the families of the Shaykh Muhammad bin Abd al-Wahhab and the Amir of Dir'iyyah, Muhammad bin Saud bin Muhammad, in the early 18th century, marriage ties have played a strong role in legitimizing the choice of successor. The Al Saud have always tended to marry from within the family, but the degree of relation is often an important indicator and determinant of the prince's status and prospects. While many from the cadet branches, who have little political influence, are free to marry within the broader family, it is still to a large extent expected that sons of the more powerful princes should promote alliances with equally influential members of the family, ideally as close to the ruling line as possible. Such connections can open up useful avenues for career advancement for an ambitious prince if he is so inclined, and will at least confer social status, if nothing else.

The families of the king and crown prince cemented such an alliance recently, with the marriage of Turki bin Abdallah, a pilot in the Royal Saudi Air Force, and a daughter of Khalid bin Sultan, the Deputy Defense Minister, and the most high-profile member of the royals at the moment. The men's ceremony, which as per tradition takes place separately from the women's, and is a relatively sedate affair by comparison, took place on the evening of the 13th of January, at the Palace of Culture in Riyadh's Embassy district, and included a large number of family members, both close and remote, as well as some attendees from foreign governments. Turki's brothers were there - including Mish'al and Mansur, who are often in their father's company, whether at al-Janadriya or Rawdat Khuraym, and Khalid, the son of Munira bint Abdallah Al al-Shaykh, and a member of the Bay'ah Commission. One of the most respected members of the royals, though not the most visible, Khalid represents the interests of the king's family, without demonstrating any overt ambition for his own part. Also present, of course, was General Mit'ib bin Abdallah, the highest ranking uniformed officer and the day-to-day Commander of the Saudi Arabian National Guard (SANG). The Guard has always been the major source of political power and prestige for his father since he first assumed the role of the force's Commander in 1963, and the king has notably refused to relinquish that role, even after succeeding to the throne.

More prominently on display, however, was the family of the bride's father. Khalid bin Sultan made the rounds, showing off the trademark flair and charisma that have seen him rise to the highest level. His sons Abdallah, Fahd and Salman rubbed shoulders with uncles and cousins, including family elders Abd al-Rahman bin Abdallah bin Abd al-Rahman and Nawwaf bin Muhammad bin Abdallah of the al-Abd al-Rahman branch, part of the royals' inner council. The crown prince's son Faysal, Turki, Nayif, Nawwaf and Salman, and Sultan bin Muhammad bin Saud, perhaps the most well-known member of the Saud al-Kabir branch, and sons of Riyadh Governor Salman bin Abd al-Aziz, Sultan, best known now for his work with the Tourism Commission, and Abd al-Aziz, from the Ministry of Petroleum, attended. Bandar bin Muhammad bin Saud al-Kabir, Sultan bin Fahd bin Abd al-Aziz, several of the sons of the late king Saud, including Nayif and Nahar, were also there, as well as several princes from the al-Thunayyan branch, and members of the Al al-Shaykh, al-Sudayri, and other prominent families. Though not an extravagant affair, the display of the Kingdom's fixtures of wealth and power along with those considered the up-and-coming, did provide the occasion for a unmistakeable statement.

Khalid bin Sultan's rising star
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