More On Fahd's Death/Abdullah's Ascension
King Abdullah, who succeeded Fahd on Monday, and the new Crown Prince Sultan are both octogenarians and unlikely to be more than transitional rulers. In turn they could be succeeded by princes barely 10 years their junior.
"Abdullah and Sultan are not just old, they are very old. So their reigns will be short," said Simon Henderson, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East policy.
"The problem is going to be compounded because their successors are likely to be brothers or half-brothers rather than sons or nephews."
Only once has the Saudi throne passed from father to son, on the death of the kingdom's founder King Abdul-Aziz 52 years ago.
Since then five of his sons -- Saud, Faisal, Khaled, Fahd and now Abdullah -- have taken their turn and still more elderly princes are waiting in line, unlikely to surrender meekly their chance to rule despite advancing age.