Updated at 1:30pm to include comments from Qatar’s government.
Qatar’s Emir has declared three days of mourning following the passing of Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud, according to the country’s state news agency.
The 90-year-old Saudi monarch died early this morning, raising a new round of speculation about how the transition of power in the Gulf’s largest country will affect the region.
The king will be succeeded by his half-brother, Crown Prince Salman, who is 79 years old. His brother Prince Muqrin, 69, will be the new crown prince, according to a statement from the Saudi Press Agency.
In a statement, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani praised King Abdullah’s work in strengthening Arab solidarity and renouncing violence and extremism in the region.
The Emir, who will travel to Riyadh this afternoon for King Abdullah’s funeral, called the Saudi monarch “one of the greatest and best leaders of our Arab and Islamic Nations who devoted his life to the service of his homeland and nation.”
Qatar has had a strained relationship with Saudi Arabia over the past few years as Doha worked to become a more significant international player.
However, many of Qatar’s top political leaders expressed their condolences in official statements today, joining residents who shared their sympathies on Twitter:
نتوّجه للشعب السعودي والأمّة العربية بأصدق التعازي في #وفاة_خادم_الحرمين_الشريفين الملك عبد الله بن عبد العزيز. pic.twitter.com/XLL0CnwnXn
— Doha Film Institute (@DohaFilm) January 23, 2015
تنعي #كتارا ببالغ الحزن والأسى
خادم الحرمين الشريفين الملك عبدالله بن عبدالعزيز آل سعود pic.twitter.com/iTsJr4DkGs
— كتارا | Katara (@kataraqatar) January 23, 2015
Additionally, several events have been postponed and canceled this weekend in Qatar out of respect for the king’s death.
Last year, Saudi, along with the UAE and Bahrain, had withdrawn its ambassadors from Qatar over a diplomatic spat presumed to involve the Muslim Brotherhood.
Tensions between Saudi Arabia and Qatar had been rising for several years during the so-called Arab Spring, when several popular uprisings in the region threatened to topple the rulers of several countries.
While Saudi Arabia opposed these pro-democracy movements and viewed them as a threat to its own stability and authority, Qatar actively supported many of the opposition factions.
The matters came to a head perhaps most critically when Qatar and Saudi Arabia found themselves backing opposing sides in Egypt.
But that dispute was apparently resolved late last year after Qatar made a number of concessions to appease its neighbors.
That included expelling several seniors members of the Muslim Brotherhood from Doha, tightening laws to outlaw insults to other Gulf leaders in a controversial cybercrime bill and clamping down on charities that send money abroad – a move interpreted as a response to criticism that Qatar was turning a blind eye to individuals raising money for armed groups such as IS.
But how the king’s passing will affect the detente between Qatar and its peers remains to be seen.
According to Michael Stephens, Deputy Director of the Royal United Services Institute Qatar, the health of Gulf relations depended heavily on the leadership of Saudi Arabia.
In an op-ed piece for Al Jazeera English, he writes:
“With regard to bringing Qatar back into the fold, it has been Abdullah, in particular, that has pushed forward the agenda. Without Abdullah, the possibility of fully mending intra-GCC ties, for example by brokering a reconciliation between Qatar and the Sisi government in Egypt, hangs more finely in the balance.”
Elsewhere in the Gulf, the UAE has declared a three-day mourning period after the death. According to the Emirates’ state news agency, President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed said:
“We mourn the death of one of the most notable leaders of the Arab Nation and Muslim Nation who generously gave a lot to his people and his nation and sincerely defended the causes of the Arab Nation and the Muslim Nation.”
Sheikh Khalifa also pledged his allegiance to the new king and ordered the UAE flags to be flown at half mast at all government departments across the country and overseas missions.
Oman and Bahrain also expressed condolences. Bahrain’s state news agency said that King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa would take part in the funeral services of King Abdullah this afternoon.
And Kuwait’s Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah expressed similar sentiments of loss, also praising King Abdullah’s legacy in Saudi Arabia.
So far, analysts have said they expect the leadership transition to be peaceful, and that Salman would broadly continue to adhere to his predecessor’s policies, Reuters reports.
Indeed, in a speech before Friday prayers, Salman vowed to maintain the same approach as his predecessors.
That will likely include continuing to maintain high production levels of oil despite plummeting prices, continuing to be involved in battling IS and extremist groups in Yemen, and supporting social programs to quiet any domestic unrest about unemployment.
But many challenges remain. The first is a question of succession.
Since the modern kingdom was founded in 1932, all six rulers have been brothers of the first king. But due to the advanced age of Salman his successor, there is speculation about how much longer this generation of royals will maintain power in Saudi Arabia.
The Wall Street Journal reports:
“Now, with the death of either the new king, who is 79 years old, or the new crown prince, 69 years old, the so-called House of Saud will for the first time have to pick a successor from a younger generation of princes.
That will establish a whole new line of succession, a potentially disruptive moment for the kingdom at a time when it faces many serious challenges, from domestic pressures for reform to regional challenges to its leadership in the Arab world.”
How much say this line of leaders will have could determine whether change in Saudi speeds up or maintains the glacial pace that it has been on for decades, analysts have said.
Here is some of the Twitter reaction from Qatar and abroad about King Abdullah’s death:
At the age of 79 it’s hard to imagine that King Salman or his successor will be a champion of women’s rights, so there are some years to go before women in KSA can even hope for real change.
Especially as Salman is suspected of suffering from Alzheimer’s
So the supposed glacial change we have been told has been happening in SA will now go even slower.
Does the region really morn? A place where executions are common place, where people lose limbs and Raif Badawa is in jail and getting 2000 lashes outside a mosque for the crime of free thought.
He enacted no reforms to stop these injustices, no freedom for the peolle of saudi, a serial human rights abuser of expats and where women are second class. Even the thought of them driving a car sends the religious dictators crazy.
I don’t morn someone who made no difference and got the position because of who he was born too.
I don’t think so, if you didn’t do anything good in your life despite wielding absolute power why should I mourn you?
Raif is getting 50 lashes a week for the crime of calling for more individual freedoms in Saudi. He was not a violent protestor, or a terrorist or someone looking to overthrow the monarchy. He couldn’t get his next 50 lashes because he was still recovering from his wounds from the first lot.
Add this is just one of the crimes against humanity that happen daily in Saudi Arabia.
oh so you have seen his wounds.
Not to mention that he has three of his daughters held in permanent imprisonment for years because their mother divorced him and fled to the UK. One of the daughters is now nearly forty. None of them have been allowed out of their compound prison and las t report on them was their fear that they were being slowly starved to death in the hope that they will just die quietly.
This King has sworn that even after he dies he has ensured his daughters, that his brothers will continue with his will to keep them imprisoned.
Repeated calls from the mother to release them have fallen on deaf ears.
bit like Mohamedu Ould Slahi, imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay since 2002 without charge?
Both cases are very wrong, but I’d rather be on the Saudi ‘sh*t list’ than the Americans, that’s for sure…
I agree both wrong but if you had to choose to live in America or Saudi. What would you choose?
can I choose America, but with the caveat that all the Americans are removed? 🙂
Neither, America has it’s own corruption going on, only difference is Saudi agendas are out in the open and American is hidden. Both countries are equally responsible for Al Qaeda and giving Islam a bad name as a terrorist religion and initiating Islamophobia!
What a King does, is serve his people, and I don’t think he did a bad job. A large percentage of the Saudi population are very conservative, and if you were to ask them, they’d probably be devastated that he’s gone. He has a duty to Rule with the best interests of his people in mind, and the simple fact is that the vast majority of his people are devout Muslims.
True, a growing number of the population want reforms, and they’d probably have like things to move faster, but you can’t force change, it has to come organically, at a pace that suits everyone.
In a very unstable region, Saudi Arabia has been politically stable and prosperous, and that’s no easy thing to maintain.
As for the issue of Capital Punishment, it’s very regrettable, and I don’t agree with it. That said, Saudi Arabia carried out 79 reported executions in 2013. The United States of America carried out 39. If you took into account other forms of state-sanctioned deaths, i.e. wars and other military actions, Saudi Arabia would seem positively placid and benign in comparison with the USA. That’s not to condone, but we should try to take a balanced view.
I think you’ll find a large percentage of the population are under 35 and want more freedom. Saying the people are conservative and they like to this way is the lie of the leaders, who use the religious police and public money to keep in power.
One more dead tyrant is a time to rejoice not to mourn.
It’s “mourn” d** khead.
Thanks, Ill change it my friend.
Another classic post from Saleem who bashes everyone else for being racist, bigots, terrible people, etc.
You so fuuny
It’s “you’re so funny”.
Mourn? Doubtful. There are just as many idiots on crotch rockets making idiotic noise around West Bay tonight as there are on any other night. There probably will be tomorrow night and the next as well. Lip service…….like most other things in Qatar.
Why you expect the whole of Qatar to stop having fun just because he died?
Wouldn’t that be the definition of a nation in mourning? Why not go full blown Old Testament: rend your garments and gird your loins with sackcloth? I agree that most are just looking for a day or two off work, so let’s call a spade a spade, not pretend like the whole nation is wailing. Like I said, it’s the typical lip service.
It is lip service, Why would the whole nation mourn over him
Can we have a 3 day holiday to mourn his loss like many other GCC countries?
Why not? No holiday? You sure?
No common practice in Doha … More or less they’ll stop music festivals and all but no holiday m
Wonder if the organizers of the golf will have to scrap the alcohol and entertainment? Or will they carry on as if nothing has happened?
Already have cancelled the concert for golf and handball.
Concerts at souq waqif for the spring festival were cancelled first thing this morning too.
nothing to see here… move along..
Innalilah wa inna ilahi rajihoon.
ILWIR….Does this mean Qatar will respect a national holiday on Sunday?
Sooner or later another Saudi king will die and then there will be fight over succession which will result in emerging a man from Mecca and then ultimately WW3 will be fought. What an exciting times we live in.
Glad that I don’t share that mythology; how depressing.
Brother, everybody dies. Nobody lives forever. I never heard anybody who lived thousand of years. Royal governing or secular dictatorial rules way better than extremisms. Look at Iraq and Syria–latest women and children graveyard of the West.
I dont understand the pretentiousness of the Arab world, and humans in general. Why exactly would you want to mourn the death of someone who was essentially corrupt in more ways than one…
Under his rule so many Human Rights violations have been recorded, from beheading people, to serving them with barbaric lashes, unnecessary confinement and torture and that is just to name a few.
The region certainly has not flourished under his rule, and the levels of poverty suffered by a vast majority of his citizens is staggering to say the least considering the fact that Saudi Arabia is part of the GCC union.
I don’t think his death is that tragic, I think the lives of the people that have died under questionable conditions, and the lives of those that are currently in imminent danger is what is tragic.
Saudia Arabia has the 11th highest GDP per Capita in the world, according to the IMF, higher that Australia, Germany and Sweden.
Not for much longer with $40 dollar oil but all those countries you have named you would defintley want to live in them than the Magic Kingdom. The house of Saudi is built on sand, literally and metaphorically
I do agree that I’d probably rather live in Sweden (definitely not Australia – too many English), I’m just pointing out that Sara’s inference that the people of Saudi are impoverished isn’t entirely accurate..
Isn’t it true though that Saudi Arabia runs a very old school class system, there are the elitest who are rich, and then the middle class, followed by those who are barely scarping by… The only problem here is the rich are insanely rich, and continue to become richer, while the poor suffer with unimaginable conditions and continue to get poorer. My point here is the fact that the Saudi king did more bad than good, its not about the nitpicky details you’re focusing on, but rather on the grand scheme of things. The king was generally speaking not a good person, who had a lot of hate in his heart that he relentlessly subjected his people to.
What you just described there, in the first 4 lines of your comment, is equally applicable (in some cases more so!) to both the UK and the US, China, India…. take your pick!
Take a look at the article linked below, it may help clear any misconceptions you have regarding the worlds “11th highest GDP per capita”. Also it would be useful to note the fact that economists say that the GDP of a country isn’t exactly an accurate reading of its level of progressiveness.
IMF like to steal all of that Arab wealth by setting up Shia and Sunni against one another.
Well that makes the Sunnis and Shias stupid to fall for that.
Condolences. Hope Saudi comes out from the Stone Age now ….
…..the new King should pardon Raif, Saudi blogger, as part of his first orders
……Now do I need to go into work on Sunday – UAE, Bahrain gives ’em holidays on such occasions. Come on we need to mourn.
Saudi Arabia is fast approaching that dreaded third generation that ibn Khaldun wrote about: the generation of princes who can’t rule well because they’ve grown up with power and don’t appreciate how easily they can lose it. Often, that’s precisely what they do.
Woe to the Gulf; hard times lie ahead.
Woe to the Gulf? Who talks like that? Thou art bizarre
The king is dead; long live the king. 🙂
Gazooks, you jest sire
The king is dead; long live the king.
Handball to go ahead but not the colour run? Who makes this stuff up?
It gets better: UB40 canceled of course. If you bought the VIP ticket for 500 you get a full refund. If you bought the regular Joe ticket for 250 you get 50 back. Sounds about right……
Wow this is beyond ridiculous. Really can’t believe. Is this even legal?
Who knows? Legal is a sliding scale in this part of the world.
Great king may rest in peace!
Will there be a 3 day mourning period here in Qatar?
How many Saudi kings does it take to change a light bulb?
Another old person taking place doesn’t seem like a great idea with the events going on over the past few years in KSA, things related to Raif, execution of the woman who was accused to kill her child few days ago, religious police having more authority than the govt., situation with the minority in the Eastern Provence, transforming Mecca into a mall, sending troops to suppress the Bahraini revolution instead of supporting the majority, high unemployment rate, women being treated as 2nd class citizen, funding isis, publicly allowing men to touch a woman and crucify her (Has nothing to do with Islam) etc… I don’t see how the King Abdallah was a good leader to its people.
KSA is a conservative society but there is an up rise of many liberal youth. The new king doesn’t necessarily have the mindset to bring the country in this century and announcing that his brother is going to take the leadership after King Salman is like going in a circle. The country needs to refresh, someone who has a young mind like Sheikh Tamim, KSA needs to shift to a knowledge based economy and be more liberal to step in the future. It’s crucial to say where things are headed with the new King. Hope things will take a positive change in KSA.