Prince Nayef's death makes a big difference in the Middle East

In many ways the repercussions following the death of Crown Prince Nayef, heir to the Saudi throne, are far greater than those that followed the death of his predecessor Prince Sultan nine months ago. Prince Nayef, after all, was heavily involved in various "files" (as foreign political responsibilities are referred to in Arabic) over the past few decades including Bahrain, Iraq and Yemen. Since his passing, various Saudi media outlets have highlighted these issues – including the London-based Asharq al-Awsat, a popular newspaper owned by Nayef's nephews.

Nayef was a polarising figure not least because of the different ways in which his policies affected the lives of those outside the kingdom's borders. For instance, while Kuwait and Bahrain both declared a three-day period of mourning following Nayef's demise, there was a different reaction in some sections of their community. Pro-government Bahrainis criticised reported celebrations by a "minuscule minority" in Shia villages on news of the prince's death, while prominent Kuwaiti members of parliament demanded stringent action against social media users who insulted the late prince.
Video footage from Saudi's Shia-dominated eastern province also showed residents celebrating the demise of a man who played an important role in the kingdom's policy towards Shia-majority Bahrain.

Elsewhere in the Gulf, Nayef publicly objected to a proposed bridge between Qatar and the UAE in 2005, calling it "unacceptable" (on the grounds that it would pass over Saudi territorial waters) and adding to a long history of disagreements with the Emirates.

Sultan Sooud Al-Qassemi is a non-resident fellow at the Dubai School of Government. He is a regular op-ed writer for The National newspaper in the UAE.

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