LONDON – The contrast between the deaths, within two days of each other, of Libya’s Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi and Saudi Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdel Aziz is one of terminal buffoonery versus decadent gerontocracy. And their demise is likely to lead to very different outcomes: liberation for the Libyans and stagnation for the Saudis.
But the death of Sultan, at 86, marks the beginning of a critical period of domestic and foreign uncertainty for the Kingdom. After all, Sultan’s half-brother, King Abdullah, 87, is still hospitalized in Riyadh, following a major operation last month. The regime is aging and ailing, and is perceived by the population as being on life support.