Did the bombings that rocked Riyadh shock the al-Saud royal family from its complacency at long last? This rude interruption to their majesties' indolence by their subjects incited rage and fury and something else--fear. Of course, alarm bells have rung before in Saudi Arabia, but the ruling family remained in denial--deniability and repression being the political arts at which the al-Saud excel. If the regime is to forge a survival strategy, it must now re-examine its foundations.
As ruling families go, the al-Saud are spectacularly numerous--there are perhaps as many 22,000 of them. But vast bloodlines have not prevented hardening of the arteries. Indeed, the men now struggling to hold things together are the incapacitated King Fahd (84 years old), his half-brother Crown Prince Abdullah (79 years old), and his full brothers, Defence Minister Sultan (78 years old), and Interior Minister Naif (75 years old).