One reason for the enduring success of the House of Saud is that in moments of crisis its members stand together. Last week the princes demonstrated family solidarity when, in accordance with a prearranged plan, they named Crown Prince Khalid, 62, successor to the assassinated King Faisal and his half brother Fahd, 53, the new Crown Prince and heir apparent.

The House of Saud forms a kind of single-party government in Saudi Arabia. Its members include more than 3,000 princes as well as an estimated 2,000 women whose husbands and sons have special princely privileges. Unfettered by any constitution or laws determining...

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