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Feature Article
Nayif's Passing - The Family Regroups 2012-07-02
After the death of Crown Prince Nayif bin Abd al-Aziz in Geneva, the family moved quicky to formalize the status of Prince Salman bin Abd al-Aziz as heir apparent. Salman, much more closely aligned with the king than the arch-conservative Nayif, can be counted on to continue with a reformist agenda once he becomes king, but he may face difficulty winning the support of the country's religious establishment.

by Senior Analyst Talal Kapoor

Nayif had been on "medical leave" in Geneva when he died suddenly, apparently from cardiac failure. Though his health was know to have been poor, he was undergoing treatment for a knee ailment at the time, and only a few days prior he was photographed at his residence there, looking none the worse for wear. While his demise was not entirely unexpected, given that this was his second trip abroad for medical reasons this year, the suddenness of his passing did come as a surprise. Nayif's body was kept in state at the Geneva Mosque, then flown to Jiddah on the 18th of June on a special Saudi Arabian Airlines flight, arriving at King Abd al-Aziz International Airport in Jiddah. Defense Minister Salman and other senior royals were present to receive the body. It was accompanied on the flight from Europe by Prince Abdallah bin Abd al-Aziz bin Musa'id, Amir of the Northern Border Province, Prince Faysal bin Muhammad bin Saud al-Kabir, Prince Abd al-Aziz bin Salman, Prince Faysal bin Salman, along with Nayif's son Saud.

Funeral prayers were held at the Holy Mosque in Makkah after Maghrib prayer. King Abdallah was present, along with hundreds of thousands of other worshippers. Funeral prayers were also held in absentia at the Prophet's Mosque in Madinah, and other mosques throughout the Kingdom after Isha' prayer. Shaykh Saud al-Shuraym led the ceremony, standing alongside Muhammad bin Nayif, son of the deceased. Muhammad, who later helped carry the body from the mosque, looked haggard and distraught. Seated next to Abdallah during the ceremony were Chairman of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces of Egypt Field Marshal Muhammad Hussayn Tantawi, King Abdallah II bin al-Hussayn of Jordan and Amir Shaykh Sabah al-Ahmad of Kuwait. Behind the king, in a telling display of the hirearchy of the third generation of royals, stood his son Mit'ab, Commander of the National Guard, and Makkah Governor Khalid al-Faysal, along with Nayif's grandson Abd al-Aziz bin Saud.

Nayif's brothers, Bandar, Mit'ab, Turki, Salman, Mamduh, Abd al-Ilah, Governor of Riyadh Sattam, Deputy Interior Minister Ahmad, Mashhur, and Chief of General Intelligence Muqrin were also in attendance at the funeral. In what was perhaps a precedent setting move, the body of Nayif was buried at al-Adl cemetary in Makkah, and not at al-Oudh in Riyadh, as per his last wish. It was taken to the graveyard in an ambulance soon after the funeral prayers. Participating in the burial ceremony were Nayif's brothers Abd al-Rahman, Turki, Salman, Ahmad, and Mamduh, along with Khalid al-Faysal.

Receptions were held over the next few days to receive condolers, including one by the king at al-Salam Palace in Jiddah, during which he received heads of state and foreign envoys, and two by Salman. The sons of Nayif also held receptions for condolers.

Almost immediately, specualtion began over who would be appointed the next vail al-ahd (heir apparent), though there was hardly any doubt it would be Salman, the long-time governor of Riyadh region. Salman had all the necessary credentials - an unmatched resume of public service (Deputy Governor of Riyadh from 1954 to 1955, then Governor from 1955 to 1960, and again from 1963 to 2011, when he was appointed Minister of Defense), seniority (his elder brothers have either removed themselves or are considered unsuitable for the office), religious piety (though never precisely defined, this quality is given pride of place among the laws and traditions governing succession), and the proper lineage (his mother, Haya bint Ahmad al-Sudayri, a favorite wife of Ibn Saud, was also the mother of King Fahd, and her offspring became known as the Sudayri Seven, including not only Fahd but also Nayif and newly-appointed Interior Minister Ahmad. Though the rank of one's mother is not a consideration in any formal sense, those princes whose mothers were commoners or concubines generally find themselves lower in the hierarchy).

a sigh of relief
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