Legacy of a King
A great leader, much loved by his people, King Fahd was the son of the founder of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, King Abdulaziz.
Born in 1922, King Fahd”s life was one of positive achievement, both in the national and international arenas.
One of his first official engagements on behalf of Saudi Arabia was as a participant in the San Francisco conference that established the United Nations and of which Saudi Arabia was a founding member.
His first ministerial position was at the Ministry of Education where he oversaw dramatic developments of Saudi Arabia”s education system including the building and establishment of thousands of schools as well as universities. He then became Minister of Interior looking after the internal security of Saudi Arabia. King Fahd was made Second Deputy Premier under King Faisal and became Crown Prince in 1975 under King Khaled. He became King in 1982. He was the longest serving King of Saudi Arabia except for Abdulaziz.
One of his first acts as king was the production of the Fahd Peace Plan. In the 1980”s, he devoted his time to resolving Arab differences particularly between Algeria and Morocco. He was also the architect of the Taif Accord in 1989, which ended civil war in Lebanon. In the early 1990”s, he led the Arab world in opposition to the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq.
On the domestic front, King Fahd led the dramatic development of Saudi Arabia”s infrastructure – schools, hospitals, roads, electricity, and water supply systems were built across the Kingdom.
In the 1990”s, King Fahd turned his attention to the development of the government with the reform programme. In 1992, he established the Basic Law and Constitution of the Kingdom based on the Holy Quran.
This included the establishment of the Shura Council and a line of succession for the descendants of Abdulaziz.
The further development of the Kingdom was outlined in King Fahd”s speech to the Shura Council in 2003, in which he set out a 6 point programme of reforms in the political, economic and legal systems including the establishment of a non-governmental human rights organization, a governmental body on human rights, the continuation of political and administrative reforms, the broadening of the scope for popular participation and calling for an equal role for women in the development of Saudi Arabia.
The King”s First and Final Rulings
By Sultan al Obaithany
Between the first and final decisions made by King Fahd bin Abdulaziz are 24 years at the helm of Saudi Arabia , full of momentous local, regional, and international events. During his reign, the late King made many courageous and honest decisions as he was eager to ensure the safety of Saudi Arabia and that of citizens in the Arab and Muslim worlds, in addition to supporting the wronged and putting an end to injustice.
King Fahd will be remembered as such in the minds of Kingdom’s citizens. He will live on in the minds of Saudis as a determined monarch who led his country for over two decades as a King, an engineer an intellectual, a scientist, and above all a strong-willed man.
His actions, speeches, and decisions, described by political analysts from around the world as balanced and wise, came to an end on Sunday when he issued his latest directive and signed it with his name forever engraved in the minds of Saudis. He announced the creation of a new position, the private advisor for the Prince of Riyadh, and appointed Abdullah al Bulayhid to the post. Newspapers headlines on Monday morning reported this selection.
One of King Fahd’s earliest decisions, soon after he ascended to the Crown in 1982 following the death of his brother Khaled, was to retain cabinet members in their posts, appoint Prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz as Crown Prince and Deputy Prime Minister and Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz as Second Deputy Prime Minister.
King Fahd”s Internal Policy
by Mohamed Jazairy
The Custodian of the two holy mosques, King Fahd Bin Abdul Aziz, died and is remembered for his prosperous achievements of domestic politics in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Most notable about the decisions made by the king was that the majority of them were aimed at public participation, enabling technocrats to be assigned to ministerial positions and to gain seats on the Shura (Consultative) council. The most prominent of these decisions was the ratification of the new regulatory system to the Shura council in 1992. This new system provides the council with the authority to discuss the public policies of the country that are referred to them by the king. Among these development plans are those concerning economic growth and social prosperity.
Other matters included in this new system were the examination of rules, regulations, treaties and international agreements, explanation of systems, discussing annual reports presented by ministries and other governmental organizations, and presentation of their suggestions concerning these issues. The law also allows for every group of ten in the council to suggest a new regulation or the amendment of an existing regulation and proposing them to the head of the council.
In its first session, the council consisted of a president and sixty members. In its second session, the council included ninety members, while in its third session it expanded to one hundred and twenty members. The percentage of doctorate holders in the council had reached 64% of the total members, whereas 14% of them acquired a Masters Degree and the remainder had acquired Bachelor Degrees.
During the same year, when the new regulatory system of the consultative council was set, so too was the ”law of regions” in Saudi Arabia. This law mainly aims at structuring the local administrative system and widening the scope of participants within the decision-making process through the establishment of regional councils. This new regulation had administratively divided Saudi Arabia into 13 governorates. In the very same year, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, may God rest his soul, had issued the basic system for governance. This new system, explains the procedures of the King”s selection of the crown prince and the principles upon which the social, economic and political fundamentals of the country are based.
During the last two years, other major decisions on the public level were issued such as that concerning municipal elections. This new rule was implemented this year and has achieved major success in its first stage.
The new rule states that half of the council would be elected, and the other half is to be appointed by the government. In the same context, the first ever non-governmental organization for human rights was launched. With the official beginning of this NGO”s activities of which its headquarters were set in Riyadh, came complaints. Administrators of this organization said that setting structural and administrative rules still "need a few modifications as it acknowledges the complaints".
There are ten women within the organization and thirty-one men. The organization is divided into four committees, which are; the observance and inquiry committee, which receives and handles all complaints that are made. There is the family and child committee that deals with family issues and children”s rights. The final two committees are that of culture and publications, and studies committee.
It is worth mentioning that the above laws were cited in the opening speech made by the Custodian of the two holy mosques, King Fahd Bin Abdul Aziz, in the consultative council during 2003. In this speech, he reinforced that he would resume political and administrational reforms. He continued, "We will work on revising laws, regulations, the accountability of governmental organization, widening the scope of public participation as well as creating a wider space for women to work according to the Islamic law (Sharia)". In his speech, he pointed out that the country has made plans concerning, "Liberating the economy from bureaucratic impediments, encouraging internal and foreign investors, allocating economic facilities for citizens, consideration of the tourism sector and a revision of the tax system."
He further mentioned the concept of reform that the government seeks to follow through, saying, "Experiences all over the world, have taught us that genuine reform is that which originates from the country”s beliefs and culture. This kind of reform is one that takes place gradually rather than too slowly or too rapidly. This is the kind of reform that we intend to follow." He concluded his speech saying, "So that everyone is aware of the sincerity of the developmental methods that we are adhering to, when credibility is the deciding factor between talk and action, I say to each citizen that each of us has his/her own role and his/her own responsibility. There will be no more dependency, placing the blame upon others or even doubting the integrity of those who call for reform. "
King Fahd Established the Largest Quran Printing Complex in the World
By Abdel Ilah al Khalifi
King Fahd will always be remembered after ruling Saudi Arabia for more than two decades for actions he took a mere five months after ascending to the throne. At the time, the newly appointed monarch set up the King Fahd Complex for Printing the Quran in the city of Medina .
In his book “The Efforts of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques in Printing the Quran”, Dr. Adel bin Ali al Shady revealed the late monarch’s “unprecedented concern of the Holy Quran since he came to power.” Accordingly, King Fahd focused all his efforts on printing, publishing, and distributing the Quran “through a single institution which supported wholeheartedly. He placed the cornerstone of the King Fahd Complex for Printing the Quran in 1982 and inaugurated the center two years later.”
Al Shady indicated in his book that almost every Muslim household, in the Kingdom and beyond “has a copy of the Medina Quran. Of course all mosques across the country have a copy, including the Two Holy Mosques. The General Authority who oversees the Two Holy Mosques receives more than 13,000 copies annually, distributed almost equally between the Mecca and Medina . Other mosques in the Kingdom receive their annual share through the Department of Mosques Affairs under the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Endowments, Dawa, and Guidance.” The book estimates that, by 1990, there were over 41,500 mosques in Saudi Arabia .
In 1997, al Shady notes, the Kingdom distributed in excess of 1.9 billion copies of the Quran to its mosques. Between 1999 and 2001, the number was never less than 1.7 billion copies annually.
The King Fahd Complex provided every one of the more than 1 million pilgrims Saudi Arabia hosts every year a personal copy of the Medina Quran in Arabic or their native tongue through a special committee established for this purpose. Pilgrims are immediately dazzled with the welcome they receive when they arrive in the Kingdom by air, sea, or land. From the moment they arrive until they depart, no effort is spared to ensure their journey is pleasant and safe. The late monarch wanted to bid each pilgrim farewell by giving them a gift to remember their spiritual journey.
In 1987, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques gave instructions that all schools in the Kingdom be given free copies of the Quran printed by the Complex. Until this day, each student continues to receive a free copy at the beginning of the school year.
Al Shady noted in his book the efforts of the late King in spreading the Medina Quran outside of Saudi Arabia . He pointed out the monarch ordered Saudi embassies worldwide be sent 10,000 copies every year at the government’s expense, a directive that remains in place. If more were needed, copies would be sent to the diplomatic mission right away. Each embassy then distributed the copies as it pleased. King Fahd also requested 500,000 copies be distributed every year for free to government offices abroad affiliated with the Ministry of Islamic Affairs and Guidance
According to al Shady, the requirements of Islamic schools, centers, and associations abroad were also met, free of charge, through the King Fahd Complex. Applications would be sent to Saudi Arabia , and analyzed in turn, on a weekly basis, by a committee chaired by the Director General of the Supervisor Bureau at the King Fahd Complex for Printing the Quran. The committee also included members of the Minsitry of Islamic Affairs and Guidance who examined the requests and recommended a course of action to the General Supervisor who would decide to supply the applicants with the required copies of the Quran. Until recently, more than 1100 associations, schools, and centers abroad are registered to receive annual supplies of the Quran produced by the King Fahd Complex in Medina
Asharq Al-Awsat Editorials
The Brave King
By Tariq Alhomayed
May God bless King Fahd bin Abdulaziz’s soul, the captain who sailed his ship, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , with utmost care during his rule, through the strong waves that shook the region and the entire world! As a politician, the late King never overlooked the religious status of his country and although strict, he never failed to smile.
Undoubtedly, an article can never do justice to the momentous reign of King Fahd. I can only relate meeting the rational and firm leader, an experience which has marked me for years to come!
I’ll never forget, for as long as I shall live, the time when I accompanied my father to greet the great King in Medina at a time when Saddam Hussein””s troops were occupying Kuwait . I was a young teenager then, far from the worlds of politics and the media. The late King was smiling, as was his habit, when he welcomed the citizens of Medina who came in their droves to greet him.
Addressing the assembled citizens, King Fahd spoke of Iraq invading its neighbor and presented the Kingdom’s plans to stand up against this illegal act. His indicated his reasons for accepting the help and assistance of friendly forces. That day, I listened to a firm sovereign with a continuous smile.
He made it abundantly clear that no one would attack an inch of the Kingdom’s soil. He referred to neighborly relations, state rule, and sovereignty. Calmly, the King spoke to the local community in a straightforward language and did not shy away from calling matters by their name.
He warned against some quarters taking advantage of the situation and directed his words at the men who used cassette tapes to spread ideas that target the solidarity of the country.
I personally heard the King convince his people without hesitating to take the momentous decision that resulted in the liberation of Kuwait and driving evil away from the borders of Saudi Arabia . I saw a King whose address taught me that the most critical decisions in the history of mankind are not taken by the people; it is for the leader to decide and save himself and the country.
Our brave King did not declare a state of emergency and prevent his citizens from speaking. Indeed, as other historic Kings have done before him, King Fhad chose a course of action and only then did he explain it to the people and untie them behind him. On that day, I truly saw a King! His image will remain with me until I die. How can I forget his firmness, resoluteness, determination and leadership, he the king who always smiled!
King Fahd took decisions concerning education, economic matters, and politics with initiative and decisiveness. He never lost touch with his subjects; every Saudi has a story to tell about an encounter with our late King during his reign of over two decades. He was renowned for his communication and amiability. When he met Saudi citizens, he shook their hands and asked after their uncles and cousins; one never failed to be surprised how many details the King remembered about different families and tribes.
I remember a great King and the only one my generation has ever known: King Fahd bin Abdulaziz. In the midst of all the trials and tribulations Saudi Arabia has passed through in the past twenty years, King Fahd stood out as a decisive leader, an enterprising monarch who transformed the Kingdom into an international player and a factor of global stability.
I have listened to the King speak about liberating Kuwait, and before that in Medina, as well as during the opening of the national television headquarters when he announced he was changing his title from His Majesty the King to The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. Under his supervision, the two holy mosques in Mecca and Medina were significantly expanded. May King Fahd bin Abdulaziz’s soul rest in peace.
The King Fahd Era: the Evolution of a Kingdom
By Amir Taheri
The story of the emergence of Saudi Arabia as a modern nation-state still remains to be written. But even now it is possible to single out a number of salient events and the few key personalities that have shaped the kingdom as it is today.
The unification of the country under King Abdul Aziz, the slow but steady creation of the infrastructure of a modern state under King Saud, and the shaping of Saudi Arabia as a regional power under King Faisal and King Khaled are some of the developments that, taken together constitute the backbone of the kingdom’s story in the current century.
To these must no doubt be added the reign of King Fahd Ibn Abdel-Aziz which marked the transformation of Saudi Arabia from a predominantly rural society into a modern urban one with a major role in regional and international politics.
King Fahd became a key player in Saudi politics from his youngest days, first serving as an adviser to his father, and later occupying key posts in the Cabinet as Minister of Education and then Minister of the Interior. By the early 1970s Prince Fahd, as he then was, had become known as the closest associate of his brother King Faisal Ibn Abdul-Aziz and, to a large extent, the architect of Saudi domestic and foreign policies. Whenever a sensitive mission was needed it was Prince Fahd who was put in charge by King Faisal. That enabled the prince to acquire a first hand knowledge of how world politics worked, and an intimate understanding of the men who shaped it. In the late 1960s and early 1970s Fahd played a decisive role shaping Saudi policy in the Gulf before and immediately after the end of over a century of British colonial presence in what was then the Trucial Coast plus Bahrain and Qatar.
That role was further emphasised in the crucial period that followed the painful disappearance of King Faisal IN 1975, victim to a dastardly crime. With King Khaled Ibn Abdul-Aziz assuming the leadership of the family and the country, Prince Fahd was confirmed as Crown Prince and Deputy Prime Minister and recognised as the key policymaker in the kingdom.
The years that followed were strenuous ones, full of drama and danger.
There was the 1979 Khomeinist revolution in Iran, still acting as a hurricane without a clear direction. There was the rising power of Iraq’s ambitious but short-sighted leadership under Saddam Hussein. The Cold War was heading for its peak with the two rival superpowers fighting it out in a number of regional conflicts from Afghanistan to the Horn of Africa. The Middle East heartland remained the powder-keg that it had always been. The invasion of Lebanon by Israel and the intensification of radical opposition to the Israeli forces in the Palestinian territories shortened the fuses of conflict.
In almost every case eyes were turned towards Saudi Arabia as a stable power capable of exerting a positive influence on events.
The famous “Fahd Plan” for peace in the Middle East was an initially hard sell to the Arabs which, still afflicted by wanton radicalism, slept in their maximalist beds and dreamed of a victory that was beyond their reach. Eventually, however, The Fahd Plan enabled the Arab states to move back from the edge of diplomatic civil war and adopt a more realistic approach to the issue of the conflict with Israel. Over the years The Fahd Plan, which had also been vehemently rejected by Israel emerged as a fresh dose of realism in a banquet of illusions. It eventually inspired the Madrid Peace conference and the subsequent negotiations that it generated. Even today, virtually all attempts at revivi9ng the peace profess are structured around key elements of the Fahd Plan.
Both as Crown Prince and King Fahd Ibn Abdel-Aziz was a tireless diplomat, criss-crossing the regional and international capitals to foster the cause of peace and stability. He was regarded as the “trouble-shooter” par excellence, capable of cooling down tempers, and fostering compromise where none seemed possible. His intervention was instrumental in preventing many open rifts within the Arab family of nations and in the broader Islamic world.
What history will remember as the ” Fahd era ” still remains to be objectively assessed, a task that may not be possible so soon after it has come to a close. But there is no doubt that this was an exciting era which witnessed dramatic social , economic, and cultural changes of the kind never before experienced by the people of the peninsula. The 1980s saw oil prices skyrocket to levels that even the most sanguine members of the OPEC could not have imagined a decade earlier. Booming world demand combined with a sharp fall in Iranian production, due to the revolution, paved the way for a dramatic increase in Saudi exports. The kingdom’s annual income from oil exports reached the magic figure of $100 billion a year. This in turn fuelled an unprecedented construction, and reconstruction, movement in the kingdom. Virtually every village, town and city was to be transformed. Within the life of a single generation the Saudi urban habitat changed beyond recognition.
Riyadh, once a sleepy oasis, became a modern, Western-style metropolis of over three million inhabitants. A series of modern urban agglomerations, notably Dhahran and Dammam, dotted the eastern coasts of the kingdom while towns such as Bureida, Unaizah, and Majmaah, in the heart of the Najd, made a straight move from the medieval times to the modern age. Mecca and Medina, Islam’s two most distinguished cities, became the subjects of the most thorough reconstruction they had experienced in centuries. By the year 1990 the two cities were capable of receiving more than two million pilgrims during the annual Haj season.
The southern fringes of the kingdom were not left out either. Ta’ef and Assir developed into robust provincial centres while Najran was established as the centre of a new zone of economic activity on the edge of the Rub al-Khali.
Physical change, however, was not the sole feature of the “Fahd era”. More important was the changes that took place in Saudi society. Illiteracy was almost completely wiped off while a majority of Saudis of school-age found access to secondary and higher education. The number of school-goers in general increased six-fold while the number of those who went to university in 1998 was four times higher than what it had been in 1980. By the late 1990s Saudi women acquiring higher education, both at home and abroad, accounted for almost 50 per cent of the total. Saudi Arabia that had been a mass importer of trained people began exporting professors and researchers at various levels and to a number of other Arab countries as well as to Europe and the United States.
There was a veritable explosion in the media sector. In 1980 there was not a single newspaper catering for the whole of the kingdom. By 1990 there were at least 12 national dailies plus international publications spearheaded by Asharq Alawsat and Al-Majallah and several pan-Arab television network. The number of books, by title, published in the kingdom showed a tenfold increase between 1980 and 2005. A whole generation of Saudi poets, novelists and journalists began to make its mark while Saudi pop-singers captured a portion of the pan-Arab market. Saudi architects, painters, composers and photographers began finding an international audience, underlying the fact that the kingdom, long an importer of cultural goods, was now capable of making its own contribution to the broader world of culture.
All these, of course, were signs that a new urban middle class was taking shape in the kingdom, creating a dynamic sociological base for the nation’s modernisation.
Support from this new middle class was of crucial importance in such moments of clear and present danger as the war for the liberation of Kuwait. That war, indeed the entire crisis unleashed by Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait on 2 August 1990, may, in hindsight, appear as more sound than fury. At the time, however, no one would have known that Saddam’s army would collapse so quickly like a pack of card. There was no guarantee that the war so callously unleashed would not engulf the entire region. Nor was anyone in a position to offer guarantees that the region’s economies would not collapse under the weight of conflict and war. The new middle class, however, stood its ground in support of the government and gave the kingdom the domestic strength it needed to cope with that moment of historic uncertainty. It became clear that a new Saudi national identity was now a reality and that at its centre stood the new middle class with its aspirations for modernisation and reform.
The emergence of that middle class meant that organising the Saudi society and pooling its resources in support of clear policy objectives now required a greater degree of popular participation. At the same time it also meant that, for the first time, a genuine and large domestic base existed for modernisation. For generations the key object of Saudi policy had been the avoidance of change. That was replaced by a new objective: the management of change.
The announcement of a Basic Law (constitution), the kingdom’s first, and the creation of a Consultative Assembly, were both prompted by a desire to manage the inevitable change within a framework of traditional values and methods. Over the years the newly created Majlis al-Shura (Consultative Assembly) whose members are appointed by the king saw its membership increased and its powers expanded. Having started as a purely advisory body, the Majlis was allowed to develop towards a legislature with steadily growing responsibilities. The process of political reform was to continue and, in the year 2004, led to the introduction of a system of partial elections for municipal elections throughout the kingdom. In the meantime, attempts at broadening the base of the decision-making led to the creation of a number of councils on the initiative of Crown Prince Abdullah Ibn Abdul-Aziz.
Over the years the process of reform has been combined with the appearance at key administrative and economic positions of a new generation of young, well-educated, and disciplined managers seeking advancement on the basis of individual merit rather than family or clan connections. By the start of the new century there were many thousands of Saudis who, thanks to their education and experience, were able to work anywhere in the world but had chosen to work in their homeland speed up the process of modernisation.
A generation ago the Saudi society was a silent one with few people prepared to discuss anything beyond the weather and other anodyne subjects. Today, the Saudi society is a talking one. Even in the remotest villages one finds people who are willing and able to discuss economic, political and social issues of importance to their society. Part of this willingness to discuss and debate is also being gradually reflected in the Saudi media which, although still too cautious for its own good, is beginning to focus on a wider range of issues. Any regular reader of the Saudi press would be impressed by what is a sea-change in its treatment of news and exposition of views.
The reform process has also manifested itself in the creation of a series of panels within the broader format of a national dialogue, initiated by Crown Prince Abdullah Ibn Abdul-Aziz, allowing for some of he formerly taboo issues of life in the kingdom to be raised and debated in public.
If the “Fahd era” is judged on purely material grounds one might be tempted to describe it as a roller-coaster.
Average per-head incomes have varied between $6000 and $16000 per annum while budget surpluses of tens of billions of dollars have alternated with equally large deficits. In all that , and as might be expected, much depended on the price of oil which fell to below $10 per barrel for a part of he 1990s only to rise to almost $60 earlier this year. Despite some efforts and even more talk, the grand hope of reducing the kingdom””s massive dependence on oil income remains largely unfulfilled.
The private sector of the economy, despite trebling in size in just a generation, has not yet acquired the leading position it needs in the context of a system of free enterprise. The non-oil industrial sector now represents almost 17 per cent of the GNP, from less than one per cent just two decades ago.
Agriculture has also registered impressive but uneven growth, turning the kingdom into a net exporter of some foodstuff for a while.
In the past four years much has been done to liberalise the economy and a number of privatisation schemes have been launched, some with much fanfare. All in all, however, the economic model has remained centred around a huge public sector on the basis of economic development philosophies initially shaped in the 1960s.
The Saudi kingdom stands at the threshold of a new era with a number of undoubted points of strength. Despite the terrorist campaign that has claimed hundreds of lives in the past four years, the kingdom still enjoys a measure of political stability unusual in one of the world’s most turbulent regions. The system has withstood the test of time in a region that has witnessed six major wars, a revolution, several civil wars, and an almost permanent level of violence during the past three decades. Today, the kingdom , having settled all its border disputes with Yemen, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Iraq, is one of the few states of the region with no irredentist problems with its neighbours.
Oil remains the key to the kingdom””s strength. The kingdom probably has some 20 per cent of the world’s oil resources plus huge reserves of natural gas that still remain to be assessed. It also has a young and increasingly well-educated population and, as mentioned above, middle class capable of understanding and working with the contemporary world. The kingdom has also developed a network of alliances inside and outside the Arab world to ensure its long-term security while it also contributes to maintaining peace and stability in the region. Last but not least the common Islamic faith remains a cement of national unity and the moral and cultural backbone of society.
Nevertheless, the kingdom also faces a number of problems and weaknesses. The war on terrorism remains to be conclusively won against nihilistic forces that stop at nothing in pursuit of their diseased dreams. The issue of improving the status of women and enabling them to make a greater contribution to national life cannot be postponed for ever.
Reforming the economic system through a more determined policy of privatisation and the introduction of a modern system of taxation are also key issues as is the whole strategy of "saudisation" in industries and services.
Like many other developing nations Saudi Arabia faces a major demographic challenge. Its success in reducing infant mortality has led to the emergence of an increasingly young population that has altered the traditional patterns of the labour market.
The problem of youth unemployment in the kingdom may not be as grave as some suggest. But there is no doubt that the Saudi economy remains anaemic insofar as job creation is concerned. Creating almost 300,000 new and good quality jobs each year is beyond the capacities of the present economic model.
There is also no doubt that the kingdom””s traditional pattern of alliances has urgent need of review. The 2003 wars that led to regime changes in Afghanistan and Iraq represented the first two major events in the region in which Saudi Arabia and its key traditional ally, the United States did not act side by side. That may have been inevitable, bearing in mind the kingdom””s belief that regime change in both Kabul and Baghdad would have been achieved through means other than full-scale invasion. The upshot, however, is that the very context in which Saudi Arabia and the United States were regional allies is changing with the emergence of new realities in Afghanistan, Iraq and some other Arab states.
For almost a quarter of a century, Fahd Ibn Abdul-Aziz was a father to his nation. Those who new him well appreciated his intelligence, sense of leadership, ability to take tough decisions, and, last but not necessarily least, his moderation. At times , as in the case of choosing war to liberate Kuwait in 1990-91, he knew how to stand alone. At others he knew how to build coalitions, first within his own family and then in the broader Saudi society and, when a foreign policy issue was to be tackled, in the outside world. His sense of humour, his ability to keep his feet on the ground, and his refusal to nurture personal enmities meant that he was a man in peace with himself. And this is, perhaps, why he was able to keep his nation at peace in a region ravaged by civil and foreign wars.
The King of Political Thought
By Mshari Al-Zaydi
The death of King Fahd is a momentous event that marks the passage of time. Journalists and pundits will no doubt retrace the life of Saudi Arabia ’s late monarch who led the Kingdom for over two decades. He reigned over the most important Muslim country with the strongest economy in the Arab world. A a country God blessed with oil and the core of Arab nationalism, Saudi Arabia is a major player regionally and internationally.
Commentators will describe how the Prince oversaw and developed education in the Kingdom since his first days in government as Minister of Education. They will portray a King whose nation reached the zenith of its power during his reign. They will note the late monarch will forever be remembered for the the colossal structures of the two Holy Mosques in Mecca and Medina that were expanded during his rule, just as the Umayyad ruler al Walid Ibn Abdel Malik’s name remains on people’s minds, as he completed the al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.
King Fahd reigned in difficult circumstances. Throughout the region, nationalism was spreading, revolutionary regimes were increasing their zeal, Lebanon was engulfed in a bloody civil war, and the Palestinian resistance split into several factions. Amidst all these fervor, political moderation which Saudi Arabia is known for in its foreign policy was targeted.
Under his leadership , Saudi Arabia espoused political moderation and rejected leftist political immaturity and rightist extremism of Ayatollah Khomeini. Instead, the Kingdom opted for the middle path and steered clear of right and left. The Arab Summit held in Fez, in Morocco in 1982 where the King announced a proposal to solve the Palestinian problem is a clear example of the rebuff of Saudi rationalism on the hands of inflexible and ignorance politicians
What remains most vivid in my memory, as a young Saudi man, was his decision to seek help from U.S military and allied forces to halt the aggression of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein on the Kingdom and neighboring Kuwait . His was a historic choice and it meant King Fahd became the last bastion against fascist forces and revolutionary voices in the region who applauded and cheered Saddam when he annexed Kuwait . They might have double their praise had the ex- Iraqi dictator ordered his Mongol army to seize Saudi territory.
Let us stop and imagine for one second what might have happened had King Fahd listened to the nonsense of the nationalists and their sympathizers during in the Gulf crisis or, for that matter listened to Osama bin Laden’s advice to rely on Afghan Arab mujahedeen to fight the might of the Iraqi army. At the time, the dominant voices in the Arab and Islamic worlds supported these views which disregard the national interest of a country such as Saudi Arabia , instead favoring absolute beliefs based on lies and ideas of old.
King Fahd weathered the storm and emerged an even stronger leader. He did so by staying focused on the ultimate goal and reaching for it. The late Saudi ruler put aside objections from the feeble and evil wishers and took the momentous decision which changed the course of history. Historians will recall his brave choice for years to come; it has ensured our land is still ours to walk on at we please.
Finally, government in Saudi Arabia is also distinguished by its immutable beliefs. Of course, nothing lasts forever in societies and countries around the world. Yet rationality and moderation remain two permanent features of the Kingdom’s foreign policies. King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz who succeeds King Fahd will continue his ancestors”” policies. The new monarch will upgrade, develop, and increase already existing potential and carry out the reformist project which began in the early 1990s.
Faced with the certainty of death, man can only record a small part of reality and which for a prosperous future, under the leadership of King Abdulalh bin Abdulaziz, may God help him carry this responsibility he more than suited for…
Our story of King Fahd
By Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed
Each one of us has our own individual experience with King Fahd, may God rest his soul. I am among the thousands of Saudis who have their story to tell about the late king. He is the main sponsor of planning and implementing the most prominent development projects in Saudi Arabia of which no other country had encountered. He achieved quite an accomplishment when he launched student exchange programs with international universities. According to his policy, he sent groups of young men to be educated in France, Britain, United States, Canada, Japan, Pakistan, Egypt, Tunisia as well as many other countries. This educational campaign was the first of its kind, inexperienced by any other country in the world, and the number of students involved in the scheme reached 100,000 in almost 15 years. He believed that education is the sole key to improve the situation of developing countries, which may not have the capacity to enroll all students in private universities. He also believed in high quality education, rather than a quantitative based one. To look at matters closely, we should consider his thoughts on the student exchange scheme as an example. Thousands of Saudis including myself have benefited from a free education of high-standards and were granted allowances for living, medication and travel costs. King Fahd believed that these aids would help us to fulfill our potential in education. He also assured that Saudi women are to be educated, through convincing students who study abroad to take their wives with them so that they too would have the privilege to study. Furthermore, the King allocated financial rewards for those who accompanied and studied with their husbands.
In the meantime, he ordered civil and military governmental institutions to send its employers abroad to train for certain jobs. He pushed for rapid development, transferred education and training and hence created a modern society. The majority of students returned home after studying abroad to work for and contribute to the development of their country. Furthermore, he brilliantly allocated land allotments for every graduate to build a house upon in order to encourage them to study at degree level. The truth is, King Fahd had built new cities, extended smaller cities and provided them with communication and transportation facilities even in suburban areas through a complicated and costly program. One can only understand the developmental transformation that happened if one had traveled all over the vast peninsula to observe the changes. Today, cities realize mixed populations of different regional background yet are brought together in the new modern country. This transformation entailed social, economic and political development enjoyed by all citizens. Out of the kingdom, he created a new country of a homogenous nature. This was a policy that he acquired from his late father, King Abdul Aziz, May God have mercy upon him, who not only fought alone in the battle of reconstructing Saudi Arabia, but settled the nomadic Bedouins of the country.
This is the brilliant mentality with which King Fahd, may God rest his soul, managed to organize for the future whilst competently guiding the country in severe and hazardous circumstances. The clearest example of his accomplishments is that the overwhelming majority of Saudi families have experienced a significant improvement in their financial status through King Fahd””s developmental projects, a dream of his that eventually came true.
King Fahd bin Abdulaziz passes away
By Ahmed Al-Rabei
King Fahd bin Abdulaziz has passed away after steering the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia through difficult times. He was never defeated and neither was the homeland. No other monarch, since the founding of Saudi Arabia , has faced such momentous events as him.
The late problem tackled problems in economic growth, education, and the system of government. He was particularly interested in ensuring popular participation and openness. Some dreams, however, are larger than the desires and capabilities of one person. King Fahd’s illness stood in the way of transforming his dreams into reality.
Following the regional earthquake in 1990, when Iraq invaded neighboring Kuwait and Saddam Hussein’s troops reached the Kingdom’s borders, King Fahd made the historical decision to confront the ex- Iraqi dictator. Back then, no one could have predicted what the future holds, what problems might arise, and the size of human casualties… King Fhad led the way and seized the initiative; he decided to face up to Saddam and suffer the consequences. His decision making and determination liberated Kuwait and safeguarded Saudi Arabia .
The death of King Fahd has filled everyone with sadness and sorrow; nevertheless the speed with which the ruling family has dealt with matters of succession is reassuring. Stability and continuity are necessary for trust in the government to continue.
With the passing away of King Fahd, Saudi Arabia has lost one of its bravest soldiers, As King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz takes office, hopes for the future abound. King Abdullah is a veteran of the world of politics and everyone agrees the new monarch truly wants to embark on a road of stability, justice, and reform. His honesty and spontaneity accompany a strong will.
Saudis have lost their captain, butt their ship will continue its journey in the midst of regional and international waves determined to develop and build their country and see of the reformist project until the end to ensure public participation and economic competition. May God bless Fahd bin Abdulaziz’s soul and assist his successor in accomplishing his mission.