The world's No. 1 oil exporter has a new ruler in place: King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia died at about age 90 and was immediately replaced by his brother, Crown Prince Salman. Abdullah, ill with pneumonia of late, had ruled officially as king for the last decade, though he essentially ran the country for a decade before that when his predecessor, King Fahd, suffered a stroke, reports Reuters. Some early assessments:
- CNN: "In the context of the kingdom's conservative circles, King Abdullah was seen as a reformer and often came up against more hard-line clerics."
- Wall Street Journal: "His death removes a bulwark against the democratic and Islamist movements that have roiled the rest of the Arab world since the uprisings of 2011, though his immediate successors are seen as just as conservative as he was, or more."
- Guardian: He "accepted limited change after 2011 in response to the events of the Arab spring. Yet Saudi women are still unable to drive, citizens are unable to vote except in municipal elections and public beheading by sword remains a standard feature of the judicial system. Political parties are banned."
- Washington Post: "Combining an avuncular style with a reputation for honesty and a shrewd understanding of the media, he was popular with his subjects, who found him a refreshing corrective to his corrupt and autocratic predecessor, King Fahd."
Most stories put Salman's age at 79. He has served as defense minister since 2012, and the Guardian says he is "widely believed" to be in ill health, too. (Read more Saudi Arabia stories.)