Although later in the piece, McDowall cites, in fastidiously sanitized fashion, a handful of examples of political oppression and misogynistic practices in the Kingdom, the overall feel of the story is sickeningly sycophantic.DUBAI (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has pushed cautious social changes in the world's top oil-exporting country and guided it through a turbulent time that included an al Qaeda uprising, confrontation with Iran and the Arab Spring upheavals in neighbouring states.
Abdullah had an operation on his back on Monday, almost a year after undergoing two rounds of surgery to treat a herniated disc that led to a three-month absence from the kingdom.
The softly spoken Abdullah was born in the royal court of his father, King Abdulaziz Ibn Saud, in the early 1920s, when the capital Riyadh was a small oasis town ringed by mud-brick walls at the centre of an impoverished but rapidly growing kingdom.
But after becoming de facto regent as crown prince when King Fahd had a stroke in 1995, and as king from 2005 onwards, he enacted reforms aimed at reconciling Saudi Arabia's conservative traditions with the needs of a modern economy.
Entirely omitted from the piece is any mention of the cruelties and human rights abuses institutionalized in the country's Sharia-based legal system, a royal ban on religious practice by non-Muslims (and systematic persecution of those who violate that ban), and Saudi funding of terrorist and antisemitic elements around the world.
A "cautious reformer" indeed.