With the death of King Abdullah, there's a new face at the top in Saudi Arabia, but not new blood: Like every other Saudi king since 1953, King Salman is a son of Ibn Saud, also known as King Abdulaziz, though he's the first king born after his father established the kingdom in 1932. The 79-year-old has a reputation as a moderate, at least by Saudi standards, a Reuters profile finds. The former defense minister, who governed Riyadh province for nearly 50 years, thinks democracy wouldn't work in the kingdom and wants to move slowly with reforms to avoid a backlash from conservatives, according to a 2007 US diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks. His rule may be a short one: He has had at least one stroke and is rumored to have dementia or Parkinson's disease, the Guardian reports.
"He doesn't blindly accept everything the United States says, but at the same time he understands the importance of the relationship, which goes beyond oil," former US Ambassador Robert Jordan tells Reuters. Salman had already taken on many kingly duties over the last year as his half-brother's health declined, and he promised in a speech today that he will continue "adhering to the correct policies which Saudi Arabia has followed since its establishment," the AP reports. The next in line to the Saudi throne is yet another Abdulaziz son, 69-year-old Prince Muqrin. After him, the crown is expected to pass to one of the scores of Abdulaziz grandchildren. Those include Salman's sons, one of whom, Prince Sultan, is the kingdom's tourism minister and the first Arab astronaut.