Founded by Abd al-Aziz in 1932, modern Saudi Arabia is an oligarchy of 7,000 male princes. The royals number an estimated 21,000 (including up to 4 wives allowed by the Koran). King Abdullah, who succeeded the late King Fahd in August 2005, is the fifth son of the founder to mount the throne as the guardian of the holy sites of Mecca and Medina.
First among royals are known as the "Sudairi Seven," which comprised seven brothers with the same mother, who was the founder's favorite wife, Al-Fadha bint Asi al-Shuraim. Surviving Sudairis are in their late seventies and include next in line to mount the throne Prince Sultan, the defense minister, who is the father of Prince Bandar, the national security adviser to the king and former ambassador to the U.S. He is known to see himself as a future kingmaker. His unique global Rolodex of the planet's powers that be also puts him in a stable of dark horses.
There is a growing convergence of opinion among the leaders of Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt that only an aerial bombardment of 17 known nuclear sites could retard Iran's nuclear ambitions by five to 10 years. One U.S. intel topsider remarked (not for attribution), "If we can gain five years that way, it's worth considering." He speculated Iran's moderate reformers could gain power in the interim,
Last month, Bandar also met secretly with Israeli, Egyptian and Jordanian national security and intelligence chiefs in Sharm El Sheikh at the tip of the Sinai Peninsula. His American, Israeli and Arab interlocutors share his alarm over Iran's nuclear ambitions and believe preemptive air strikes will become necessary in 2007. A new existential alliance appears to be in gestation against Iran's nuclear program.
Almost optimistic that someone thinks the mullahs are dangerous and want to do something about it.