(CNN) – Saudi Arabia’s new king takes the throne at a time of great turmoil in the region.
Condolences and respect for the new king, the Saudi message for all continuity, but never in the desert kingdom’s modern history has a new monarch inherited so much regional turmoil.
To the south Yemen the government collapsing rebels running the capital. To the north Iraq, not just attacks on the border by radical Islamist ISIS, but growing tensions with the government.
Then there is oil in King Salman’s hands, the power to shape the global economy. All of it filtered through the prism of Iran. Saudi is Sunni, Iran is Shia, branches of Islam with a fractious past.
In 2012, King Abdullah invited Iranian president Ahmedinejad to Saudi. Since then relations have only deteriorated. Iran seen as the hand behind the increasingly sectarian politics of Shia-led Iraq. The marginalization of Sunni’s fueling in part the growth of radical Islamist like ISIS.
ISIS’s global caliphate aspirations coveting the king’s role as custodian of Islam’s two holiest sites Mecca and Medina and in Yemen, Shia Houthi rebels judged by Saudis to have Iran’s backing.
By keeping its oil flowing global oil prices falling the Saudi assumption is Iran’s economy will tank ultimately sweeping conservatives from power.
So as the U.S. eyes a nuclear deal with Iran calculated to enable moderates, Saudi fears it will do nothing more than give hard-liners what they want: Nuclear weapons.
Opposing positions now on King Salman’s plate to manage, as for ISIS, in the past year King Abdullah positioned Saudi as the regional lead.
Trying to win U.S. Backing to deploy 50,000 anti-government forces to Syria, including international troops.
The U.S. lacked appetite for that, the compromise of air strikes and training not particularly palatable for the Saudis either, but if there is a bad taste in U.S.-Saudi relations, it will be the U.S. response to the Arab spring in 2011.
In Egypt as the U.S. turned its back on President Mubarak, the Saudis urged him to stay.
For King Abdullah, it served as an object lesson in U.S. Loyalty to gulf allies. Continuity will be King Salman’s guiding principle, but he inherits a far more complicated kingdom than his predecessor.