From escalating violence in eastern Ukraine and a thousands strong march in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, Ala. to priests photographing Pope Francis in the Philippines and a surprising, glowing seascape in Hong Kong, TIME presents the best pictures of the week.
While mourning will last for three days during which kingdom's flags will fly at half staff, businesses and shops will remain open
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — There will be no golden carriages.
The funeral of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, whose death was announced early on Friday, is set to be a simple affair in line with the austere form of Islam practiced by one of the world’s wealthiest ruling families.
The body of the former custodian of Islam’s two holiest cities, Mecca and Medina, will be bathed according to Islamic ritual. The late ruler, whose net worth has been estimated to stand at around $20 billion, will then be wrapped in two pieces of plain white cloth — the standard shroud for all Muslims.
According to tradition, nothing out of the ordinary will be done to King Abdullah’s body, and after it is prepared it will be taken to the Imam Turki Bin Abdullah Grand Mosque in the capital Riyadh for the funeral prayers at around 3:15 p.m. (7:15 a.m. ET).
King Abdullah died early Friday at the age of 90 after nearly two decades in power
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia’s new king moved swiftly Friday to name the country’s interior minister as deputy crown prince, making him the second-in-line to the throne, as he promised to continue the policies of his predecessors in a nationally televised speech.
King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud’s actions came as the oil-rich, Sunni-ruled kingdom began mourning King Abdullah, who died early Friday at the age of 90 after nearly two decades in power.
Salman’s royal decree puts Prince Mohammed bin Nayef in line to ascend to the throne after his designated successor, Crown Prince Muqrin. Mohammed is the son of late King Abdullah’s half brother Nayef.
“We will continue adhering to the correct policies which Saudi Arabia has followed since its establishment,” Salman said in the speech aired on the state-run Saudi 2 television station.
Salman also made an oblique reference to the chaos gripping the greater Middle East as the extremist Islamic State group now holds a third of both Iraq and Syria.
“The Arab and the Islamic nations are in dire need of solidarity and cohesion,” the king said.
Salman, 79, had increasingly taken on the duties of the king over the past year as his ailing predecessor and half brother, Abdullah, became more incapacitated.
Abdullah is expected to be buried Friday afternoon following a funeral at the Imam Turki bin Abdullah mosque in the capital, Riyadh.
Leaders from around the world expressed their condolences.
U.S. President Barack Obama described the late Saudi king as a candid leader who had the courage of his convictions, including “his steadfast and passionate belief in the importance of the U.S.-Saudi relationship as a force for stability and security in the Middle East and beyond.”
The president of the neighboring United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, said in a statement that Abdullah “generously gave a lot to his people and his nation,” while Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi said “the Saudi kingdom and the Arab nation have lost a leader of its best sons.”
Salman has served as defense minister since 2011. That made him the head of the military as Saudi Arabia joined the United States and other Arab countries in carrying out airstrikes in Syria in 2014 against the Islamic State group, the Sunni militant group that the kingdom began to see as a threat to its own stability. He is expected to relinquish that post now that he is king.
He takes the helm at a time when the ultraconservative Muslim kingdom and oil powerhouse is trying to navigate social pressures from a burgeoning youth population — over half the population of 20 million is under 25 — seeking jobs and increasingly testing boundaries of speech on the Internet, where criticism of the royal family is rife.
Salman’s health has been a question of concern. He suffered at least one stroke that has left him with limited movement on his left arm.
U.S. officials say that the embassy won’t be closing
The U.S. has decided to reduce its embassy staff in Yemen following the collapse of the nation’s government at the hands of rebel Houthi fighters.
“The safety and security of U.S. personnel is our top priority in Yemen,” White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said in a statement. “We are evaluating the security situation on the ground on an ongoing basis. We call on all parties to abide by their public commitments to ensure the security of the diplomatic community, including our personnel.”
The move comes four months after U.S. President Barack Obama lauded Yemen as a model for “successful” counterterrorism partnerships.
The reduction of embassy staff, mainly in response to the security situation, comes at a time when Washington is trying to secure partnerships in the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria while trying to limit Iran’s influence in the region, according to Reuters.
The situation is alarming neighboring Saudi Arabia, which sees Tehran’s military and financial support for the Shi‘ite Houthis as a sign of their growing regional clout.
Former Yemeni President Abdel Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who resigned Thursday along with a slew of government officials, was seen as a key ally in the war against jihadist groups like al-Qaeda. However, the Houthis, who now control the capital, are said to loathe al-Qaeda as much as they do the U.S., reports Reuters.
Hadi’s resignation will “absolutely” limit drone strikes and counterterrorism operations in the immediate future, a former U.S. official told the news agency.
"An important voice who left a lasting impact on his country"
U.S. President Barack Obama paid tribute to Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah on Friday, hailing the late monarch’s contributions to peace in the Middle East and the relationship between the two allies.
“As our countries work together to confront many challenges, I always valued King Abdullah’s perspective and appreciated our genuine and warm friendship,” Obama said in a statement. “The closeness and strength of the partnership between our two countries is part of King Abdullah’s legacy.”
Former President George H.W. Bush also released a statement calling Abdullah “a wise and reliable ally, helping our nations build a strategic relationship and enduring friendship,” according to CBS News.
Messages came in from leaders around the world, with British Prime Minister David Cameron and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi both expressing regret at Abdullah’s demise. Cameron, who visited Saudi Arabia in 2012, said he was “deeply saddened” and expressed hope that the “long and deep ties between our two Kingdoms will continue,” while Modi took to Twitter to commemorate “an important voice who left a lasting impact on his country.”
Abdullah’s spearheading of the Arab Peace Initiative, which was cited by both Obama and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry as one of his key achievements, was also included in U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s condolence message as “a tangible legacy that can still point the way towards peace in the Middle East.”
Last month, Saudi Arabia pumped 9.5 million oil barrels a day, but uncertainty clouds the future of oil prices
Oil prices spiked following the death on Friday of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, whose country’s oil production is the largest of any state in the 12-member Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), a cartel responsible for approximately 40% of the global oil supply.
The monarch’s passing also increased oil futures in New York by 3.1 and London by 2.6, according to Bloomberg. As the globe’s biggest exporter of crude oil, Saudi Arabia helped maintain an OPEC production quota last year that helped keep oil prices low by ensuring a high supply of crude in the worldwide market. Prices nearly halved last year when OPEC’s output did not drop to reflect oversupply, as the U.S., the globe’s largest consumer of oil, pumped more oil than it had in over three decades.
“The passing of King Abdullah is going to increase uncertainty and increase volatility in oil prices in the near term,” said financial analyst Neil Beveridge in a phone interview with Bloomberg.
U.S. crude stockpiles jumped by 10.1 million barrels, its largest volume increase since early 2001, according to the Energy Information Administration’s reports up to Jan. 16.
Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz succeeds King Abdullah, who helmed the kingdom for nearly a decade and significantly enlarged Saudi Arabia’s economy, which is now the largest in the Arab world in terms of total GDP.
A smooth succession is all but guaranteed in the Kingdom — but that won't help imperiled U.S. allies in Yemen
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia died Thursday of natural causes at age 90, leaving in place what appears to be a well-laid succession plan that U.S. analysts hope will assure continued stable relations between Washington and the oil-rich country that dominates most of the peninsula.
Unfortunately, in neighboring Yemen, the government of U.S. ally President Abdel Rabbo Mansour Hadi also died Thursday, leaving nothing but the prospect of a failed state and increased sway for Iran-backed Houthi rebels and a powerful and dangerous branch of al Qaeda.
On balance, the bad news outweighs the good.
Abdullah’s successor, Crown Prince Salman, is an established figure in U.S.-Saudi affairs, with a history of collaboration on national security matters dating to his fundraising for the Afghan Mujahedeen during their war against the Soviets in the 1980s, says Bruce Reidel of the Brookings Institution. One of Salman’s sons, Reidel reports, “led the first RSAF mission against Islamic State targets in Syria last year.”
But while oil futures soared on the news of Abdullah’s death as traders worried about potential instability in Saudi Arabia, former U.S. officials viewed the collapse of central governing authority in Yemen as the real cause for concern. “Rule number one of contemporary national security policy is allow the emergence of no new failed states,” says former State Department Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Amb. Daniel Benjamin.
The power vacuum is most worrying because it imperils U.S. intelligence and counterterrorism operations against one of the few al Qaeda off shoots that retains the U.S. as its primary target. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has a talented bomb-maker in its upper ranks, a Saudi fugitive named Ibrahim al Asiri. U.S. officials believe al Asiri is behind several near-miss attempts to bring down Western airliners, at least one of which was foiled by a Saudi double agent who had penetrated the group.
The Houthis are only a threat to the U.S. insofar as they appear to have effected the ouster of the U.S.-backed Hadi and left a collapsed state in his wake. “We were banking on a guy who was very pro-American, but had far less support in his country than we thought,” says Whitley Bruner, a former CIA Baghdad station chief who previously served in Yemen and has worked as a security consultant there in recent years.
The Saudis dislike both the Houthis and AQAP, which dispatched al Asiri’s brother in a suicide attack that nearly killed the Saudi Interior Minister in 2009. But the kingdom has little chance of putting its neighbor back together again: with Yemen’s history of sectarian, tribal and ideological violence, “it’s going to get worse,” says Bruner. AFP reported late Thursday that “four provinces of Yemen’s formerly independent south, including its main city Aden, say they will defy all military orders from Sanaa” now that the capital has fallen to the Houthis.
Meet King Salman+ READ ARTICLE
King Salman is now ruler of Saudi Arabia after his elder half-brother, King Abdullah, died early Friday at age 90.
Salman bin Abdulaziz, who was named crown prince in June 2012, was Abdullah’s third heir to the throne after two elder brothers died in late 2011 and mid-2012. As the new King of Saudi Arabia, home to 28 million people, he will also serve as Prime Minister and Defense Minister.
A longtime governor of the capital, Riyadh, Salman has a reputation as a progressive and practical prince similar in bearing to his late brother. The transition is expected to be a smooth one, with little instability and no long-term policy changes. But the 79-year-old has reportedly been in poor health in recent years, and is perhaps unlikely to rule for as long as his elder sibling.
Unlike European monarchies that are handed down by generations, the Saudi throne has passed between the sons of King Abdulaziz, who founded modern-day Saudi Arabia in 1932. His sons Saud, Faisal, Khalid and Fahd each became king in the 20th century; Abdullah took the throne when Fahd died in 2005.
King Salman’s crown prince will be his younger brother Prince Muqrin, the youngest surviving son of King Abdulaziz, who was named deputy crown prince last year when the kingdom acted to set in stone its structure for the future. Muqrin is said, like the new King, to be committed to cautious reforms.
It was decreed by the King in 2006 that when the last of Abdulaziz’s sons passes away, a new King will be chosen from among his grandsons by a council of senior Saudi princes. Prince Muhammad bin Nayef, the son of a crown prince who died, is considered a leading contender after being appointed Interior Minister in 2012.
But the kingdom has never transitioned from one generation to another, and no one quite knows what will happen when it does.
Read TIME's take on the Saudi monarch's relationship with President Obama
Saudi state TV reported Friday morning, local time, that King Abdullah had died at 90. The monarch’s health was a known concern last April, when TIME took a long look at the state of affairs between Saudi Arabia and the U.S., and the relationship between the King and President Barack Obama.
Though interactions between the two nations were showing signs of stress, they still provided a window into the world of the King:
The King requires a certain amount of TLC. “This is a very personalized relationship. It’s always the King and the President,” says Elliott Abrams, a former Bush White House national-security aide who has met Abdullah many times. The special relationship between Washington and Riyadh has endured since 1945, when Franklin Roosevelt met with Abdullah’s father Abdulaziz ibn Saud and established an informal deal: the U.S. provides for the kingdom’s security in exchange for reliable oil supplies. (History buffs will note that Roosevelt saw the King on his way home from the Yalta conference, held in Crimea.)
To this day, there is nothing quite like dinners with the Saudi monarch in his Riyadh palace. The King and the President are seated at the head of a massive U-shaped table, flanked by dozens of people, most of whom can’t see either leader because of the large flat-screen televisions that are placed in front of them. The King enjoys dining with his TV tuned to the news channel al-Arabiya, Abrams says.
That may not be Obama’s idea of a good time. But communication with the King, now 89, comes much more easily in person than the grouchy mumbling one gets from afar. “The King doesn’t like to talk on the phone,” says a diplomat who knows Abdullah. Despite such obstacles, Obama has maintained a workmanlike, if not quite hand-holding, relationship with Abdullah. In their past meetings, says Jim Smith, Obama’s ambassador to Riyadh until last October, “Obama was deferential and respectful of the King’s age, and the King was respectful of the President’s position and his brainpower.”
Read the full story here, on TIME.com: The King and O
Powerful U.S. ally joined the fight against al-Qaeda and sought to modernize the ultraconservative kingdom
(RIYADH, Saudi Arabia) — Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, the powerful U.S. ally who joined Washington’s fight against al-Qaida and sought to modernize the ultraconservative Muslim kingdom with incremental but significant reforms, including nudging open greater opportunities for women, has died, according to Saudi state TV. He was 90.
More than his guarded and hidebound predecessors, Abdullah assertively threw his oil-rich nation’s weight behind trying to shape the Middle East. His priority was to counter the influence of rival, mainly Shiite Iran wherever it tried to make advances. He and fellow Sunni Arab monarchs also staunchly opposed the Middle East’s wave of pro-democracy uprisings, seeing them as a threat to stability and their own rule.
He backed Sunni Muslim factions against Tehran’s allies in several countries, but in Lebanon for example, the policy failed to stop Iranian-backed Hezbollah from gaining the upper hand. And Tehran and Riyadh’s colliding ambitions stoked proxy conflicts around the region that enflamed Sunni-Shiite hatreds — most horrifically in Syria’s civil war, where the two countries backed opposing sides. Those conflicts in turn hiked Sunni militancy that returned to threaten Saudi Arabia.
And while the king maintained the historically close alliance with Washington, there were frictions as he sought to put those relations on Saudi Arabia’s terms. He was constantly frustrated by Washington’s failure to broker a settlement to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. He also pushed the Obama administration to take a tougher stand against Iran and to more strongly back the mainly Sunni rebels fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Abdullah’s death was announced on Saudi state TV by a presenter who said the king died at 1 a.m. on Friday. His successor was announced as 79-year-old half-brother, Prince Salman, according to a Royal Court statement carried on the Saudi Press Agency. Salman was Abdullah’s crown prince and had recently taken on some of the ailing king’s responsibilities.
Abdullah was born in Riyadh in 1924, one of the dozens of sons of Saudi Arabia’s founder, King Abdul-Aziz Al Saud. Like all Abdul-Aziz’s sons, Abdullah had only rudimentary education. Tall and heavyset, he felt more at home in the Nejd, the kingdom’s desert heartland, riding stallions and hunting with falcons. His strict upbringing was exemplified by three days he spent in prison as a young man as punishment by his father for failing to give his seat to a visitor, a violation of Bedouin hospitality.
Abdullah was selected as crown prince in 1982 on the day his half-brother Fahd ascended to the throne. The decision was challenged by a full brother of Fahd, Prince Sultan, who wanted the title for himself. But the family eventually closed ranks behind Abdullah to prevent splits.
Abdullah became de facto ruler in 1995 when a stroke incapacitated Fahd. Abdullah was believed to have long rankled at the closeness of the alliance with the United States, and as regent he pressed Washington to withdraw the troops it had deployed in the kingdom since the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. The U.S. finally did so in 2003.
When President George W. Bush came to office, Abdullah again showed his readiness to push against his U.S. allies.
In 2000, Abdullah convinced the Arab League to approve an unprecedented offer that all Arab states would agree to peace with Israel if it withdrew from lands it captured in 1967. The next year, he sent his ambassador in Washington to tell the Bush administration that it was too unquestioningly biased in favor of Israel and that the kingdom would from now on pursue its own interests apart from Washington’s. Alarmed by the prospect of a rift, Bush soon after advocated for the first time the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
The next month, the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks took place in the United States, and Abdullah had to steer the alliance through the resulting criticism. The kingdom was home to 15 of the 19 hijackers, and many pointed out that the baseline ideology for al-Qaida and other groups stemmed from Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi interpretation of Islam.
When al-Qaida militants in 2003 began a wave of violence in the kingdom aimed at toppling the monarchy, Abdullah cracked down hard. For the next three years, security forces battled militants, finally forcing them to flee to neighboring Yemen. There, they created a new al-Qaida branch, and Saudi Arabia has played a behind-the-scenes role in fighting it.
The tougher line helped affirm Abdullah’s commitment to fighting al-Qaida. He paid two visits to Bush — in 2002 and 2005 — at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.
When Fahd died in 2005, Abdullah officially rose to the throne. He then began to more openly push his agenda.
His aim at home was to modernize the kingdom to face the future. One of the world’s largest oil exporters, Saudi Arabia is fabulously wealthy, but there are deep disparities in wealth and a burgeoning youth population in need of jobs, housing and education. More than half the current population of 20 million is under the age of 25. For Abdullah, that meant building a more skilled workforce and opening up greater room for women to participate. He was a strong supporter of education, building universities at home and increasing scholarships abroad for Saudi students.
Abdullah for the first time gave women seats on the Shura Council, an unelected body that advises the king and government. He promised women would be able to vote and run in 2015 elections for municipal councils, the only elections held in the country. He appointed the first female deputy minister in a 2009. Two Saudi female athletes competed in the Olympics for the first time in 2012, and a small handful of women were granted licenses to work as lawyers during his rule.
One of his most ambitious projects was a Western-style university that bears his name, the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, which opened in 2009. Men and women share classrooms and study together inside the campus, a major departure in a country where even small talk between the sexes in public can bring a warning from the morality police.
The changes seemed small from the outside but had a powerful resonance. Small splashes of variety opened in the kingdom — color and flash crept into the all-black abayas women must wear in public; state-run TV started playing music, forbidden for decades; book fairs opened their doors to women writers and some banned books.
But he treaded carefully in the face of the ultraconservative Wahhabi clerics who hold near total sway over society and, in return, give the Al Saud family’s rule religious legitimacy.
Senior cleric Sheik Saleh al-Lihedan warned against changes that could snap the “thread between a leader and his people.” In some cases, Abdullah pushed back: He fired one prominent government cleric who criticized the mixed-gender university. But the king balked at going too far too fast. For example, beyond allowing debate in newspapers, Abdullah did nothing to respond to demands to allow women to drive.
“He has presided over a country that has inched forward, either on its own or with his leadership,” said Karen Elliot House, author of “On Saudi Arabia: Its People, Past, Religion, Fault Lines.”
“I don’t think he’s had as much impact as one would hope on trying to create a more moderate version of Islam,” she said. “To me, it has not taken inside the country as much as one would hope.”
And any change was strictly on the royal family’s terms. After the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings in particular, Saudi Arabia clamped down on any dissent. Riot police crushed street demonstrations by Saudi Arabia’s Shiite minority. Dozens of activists were detained, many of them tried under a sweeping counterterrorism law by an anti-terrorism court Abdullah created. Authorities more closely monitored social media, where anger over corruption and unemployment — and jokes about the aging monarchy — are rife.
Regionally, perhaps Abdullah’s biggest priority was to confront Iran, the Shiite powerhouse across the Gulf.
Worried about Tehran’s nuclear program, Abdullah told the United States in 2008 to consider military action to “cut off the head of the snake” and prevent Iran from producing a nuclear weapon, according to a leaked U.S. diplomatic memo.
In Lebanon, Abdullah backed Sunni allies against the Iranian-backed Shiite guerrilla group Hezbollah in a proxy conflict that flared repeatedly into potentially destabilizing violence. Saudi Arabia was also deeply opposed to longtime Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whom it considered a tool of Iran oppressing Iraq’s Sunni Muslim minority.
In Syria, Abdullah stepped indirectly indirectly into the civil war that emerged after 2011. He supported and armed rebels battling to overthrow President Bashar Assad, Iran’s top Arab ally, and pressed the Obama administration to do the same. Iran’s allies Hezbollah and Iraqi Shiite militias rushed to back Assad, and the resulting conflict has left hundreds of thousands dead and driven millions of Syrians from their homes.
From the multiple conflicts, Sunni-Shiite hatreds around the region took on a life of their own, fueling Sunni militancy. Syria’s war helped give birth to the Islamic State group, which burst out to take over large parts of Syria and Iraq. Fears of the growing militancy prompted Abdullah to commit Saudi airpower to a U.S.-led coalition fighting the extremists.
Toby Matthiesen, author of “Sectarian Gulf: Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the Arab Spring That Wasn’t,” said Abdullah was not “particularly sectarian in a way that he hated Shiites for religious reasons. … There are other senior members of the ruling family much more sectarian.” But, he said, “Saudi Arabia plays a huge role in fueling sectarian conflict.”
Abdullah had more than 30 children from around a dozen wives.
Batrawy reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.