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Tags: Abdullah | saudi arabia | yemen | isis | sunni | shiite | terrorism

Fox: Abdullah's Death, Yemen Chaos Raise Mideast Threat

Friday, 23 January 2015 09:21 AM EST

The death of King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia has created a potential vacuum that could result in the U.S. facing the threat of Iran increasing its power in the Middle East and an even greater danger from radical Islamic terror groups.

The 90-year-old Sunni Arab king was a longtime ally of Washington who helped the U.S. in its fight against al-Qaida and the Islamic State (ISIS), and also prevented Shiite Iran from gaining a stronger foothold in the troubled region, according to reports.

His death, along with the collapse this week of the U.S.-backed government in Yemen, was called a "worst-case scenario" by a former U.S. diplomat with close ties to the Saudi royal family because it removed a roadblock to Tehran expanding its influence in the Mideast, according to Fox News.

The Saudi monarch died just as reports surfaced that Iran has produced an intercontinental ballistic missile, which could pose a threat to the U.S. due to its expanded range, according to a report.

After two decades in power, Abdullah will be succeeded by his reportedly ailing 79-year-old half-brother Crown Prince Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, with the new Crown Prince Moqren now next in line to the Saudi throne.

King Salman quickly moved on Friday to quell international concerns over the future of his country and policies toward neighboring countries in a nationally televised speech.

"We will continue adhering to the correct policies which Saudi Arabia has followed since its establishment," said Salman, while also making a veiled reference to the chaos gripping the Middle East as ISIS now controls vast areas of Iraq and Syria.

"The Arab and the Islamic nations are in dire need of solidarity and cohesion," the new king said.

Abdullah’s reign was centered on preventing Iran gaining influence in the region, and he backed Sunni factions against Tehran's allies in several countries, although Iranian-backed Hezbollah has gained control in Lebanon.

According to Fox News, the conflict between Tehran and Riyadh, the Saudi capital, fueled the hatred between Shiites and Sunnis, particularly in Syria where the two countries backed opposing sides.

The problems, in turn, resulted in Sunni radical groups like ISIS creating a new threat to the Saudi Arabia royalty, which has opened the door for Iran to expand its position in the region.

The former diplomat told Fox News that in recent years Tehran has increased its impact on four countries in the region — Yemen, Iraq, Syria and, to a lesser extent, Lebanon. Riyadh has also accused Shiite Iran of interfering with the internal affairs of neighboring Bahrain.

Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Liz Cheney told Fox News, "Any time you have a succession in as important a country as Saudi Arabia is a very big deal. And King Abdullah was longtime friend of the United States.

"We didn’t always agree, but he was somebody who provided real leadership to his nation and friendship with the U.S., and that’s a critically important relationship."

Story continues below video.

According to reports, the first crisis facing the new Saudi king is how to handle the ongoing unrest in Yemen, where Shiite Houthi rebels forced the resignation of the country's president and entire government Thursday.

Washington will also be concerned about whether King Salman will continue to be part of the U.S.-led bombing campaign against ISIS. With fears over the radical group trying to create a caliphate in Saudi Arabia, Abdullah had committed his airpower to strike the Sunni extremists.

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The death of King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia has created a potential vacuum that could result in the U.S. facing the threat of Iran increasing its power in the Middle East and an even greater danger from radical Islamic terror groups.
Abdullah, saudi arabia, yemen, isis, sunni, shiite, terrorism
Friday, 23 January 2015 09:21 AM
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