Published January 22, 2015
June 27, 2014: Saudi King Abdullah speaks before a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at his private residence in the Red Sea city of in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia. (AP)
DEVELOPING: King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, the powerful U.S. ally who joined Washington's fight against Al Qaeda and sought to modernize the ultraconservative Muslim kingdom has died at 90, according to Saudi state TV.
His expected successor is his 79-year-old half-brother, Prince Salman, who recently has taken on the ailing Abdullah's responsibilities.
The announcement came in statement read by a presenter on Saudi state TV, which aired video of worshippers at the Kaaba in Mecca.
Saudi state TV said he died after midnight Friday.
A former American diplomat close to the Saudi royal family told Fox News the death of King Abdullah, coupled with the collapse of the government in Yemen, is a "worst case scenario" for the U.S. because current events are allowing Iran to extend its reach and influence in the region.
With the collapse of President Hadi's government in Yemen, the former diplomat said Teheran's influence is now seen in at least four Middle Eastern capitals - Sana'a in Yemen, Baghdad in Iraq, Damascus in Syria, and to a lesser extent in Beirut, Lebanon.
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.
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.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.