With many Middle East rulers well past their prime, succession in the region is full of uncertainties, including in the eight monarchies (six countries in the Gulf, plus Jordan and Morocco) with their fourteen ruling families (the United Arab Emirates includes seven emirates). In examining this problem, Kechichian keeps in mind regional dynamics and their debilitating effect on the succession issue. He offers a detailed assessment of the historic circumstances that led to a particular family gaining power, the composition of the ruling family, constitutional continuum, detailed biographical sketches of contemporary rulers, the most recent succession in each country, and potential contenders to power. He complements this with information about rulers and heirs (some of them dating back to the mid-eighteenth century) and highlights the relevant portions of constitutions pertaining to succession.
The fascinating details about various rulers and potential successors in Power and Succession exhibit Kechichian's extensive contacts in the region. At the same time, he has not allowed these relationships to complicate his understanding or compromise his balanced portrayal. Some loyalists might consider his discussions too sensitive. Thus, for example, describing Moroccan King Muhammad's marriage to Princess Lalla, which was officially solemnized on October 12, 2001, Kechichian argues that there may have been "a secret matrimonial ceremony" on the eve of Hassan II's death in July 1999 because "Moroccan law did not allow an unmarried monarch."
In this otherwise male-dominated arena, the wives of the rulers of Qatar (Mawza bint Nasir al-Misnad), Jordan (Queen Rania as well as the late King Hussein's wife Noor), and Morocco (Queen Lalla) are seen as powerful personalities who could influence future succession battles.
Rather than passing value judgments, the author offers insights into the inner functioning of these ruling dynasties, their dilemmas, sibling rivalries, tensions between different families, and, above all, the growing demands from below for greater transparency and accountability. In short, Kechichian offers a nuanced, well-structured, and meticulous assessment. His eye for detail is second only to his sharp and balanced appraisal. Therein lies the strength and usefulness of this timely volume.