Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The Best Successor to the Best Predecessor

Jihad El Khazen Al-Hayat 08/08/05/

Two images for King Fahd, Mercy Upon his Soul, are engraved in my memory: the first is in Paris in 1979 as I briefed him on the news and listened to his comments when the division in the Arab world was at its hype after the Camp David agreements. The second time was when I watched him in his military Jeep besides Prince Khaled bin Sultan parading the Saudi forces after the occupation of Kuwait.

The first image combined the political and personal aspects in him; that weekend we accompanied him to the airport, he was wearing a white suit since he was heading to Germany for an official visit. The second image highlighted the leadership side of the King as he took the right decision with vigor and determination until Kuwait was liberated.

As he rests in peace, there is no one better qualified than Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz to pursue the same path and there is no one better than Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz to assist him.

King Abdullah is known to be a reformist to the extent that the term reformist has become analogous to his name in the West. I know him to be the enemy of corruption and the corrupt, even his opponents admit this fact. It must be said that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is in dire need of reform and fight against corruption.

Perhaps King Abdullah’s mission will be easier now as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has the best economy since decades and the price of oil is almost 60 dollars a barrel, and might increase more. This strength will grant the government the ability to implement more plans that would benefit the average citizen.

The matter is no secret; I hope that priorities would include:

-The diversification of income sources so the Saudi economy would not only be oil focused.

-The modernization of education and curricula to catch up with the current age, yet, this is the task of experts who know about this more than I do.

-Double the efforts to empower the Saudi woman through education or work. While I acknowledge that the rights of the Saudi woman are not complete, I note that the Saudi (and Gulf) woman’s situation has greatly advanced in recent years. I also add that the Saudi society is very conservative and that the freedoms granted to women should reflect the Saudi society not any other.

-I hope for more solidarity between the leadership of Egypt and Saudi Arabia along with Syria, Morocco and Algeria and all other Arab countries, since the lesson of contemporary politics is that Arab countries either rise together or fall separately.

Surely there are changes that reflect the thoughts, concerns and priorities of a particular official in addition to the firm bases of Saudi Arabia, which are known in the Arab and Islamic worlds. Those pillars, which have become a part of the Saudi entity, will be strengthened by King Abdullah and Crown Prince Sultan.

We do not need a crystal bowl to read that the new Saudi term would work for more Islamic solidarity, since that is the rationale behind the country’s existence, or that it would support the Palestinians and try to prevent the collapse of Iraq.

The King and his Crown Prince’s experiences in ruling for decades and Prince Abdullah’s administration of the country’s affairs since the sickness of King Fahd, Mercy Upon his Soul, will definitely facilitate their mission. Furthermore, the King has close ties and is trusted by the world’s leaders and there is a personal friendship with President George Bush, as we saw them holding hands months earlier in the President’s ranch at Crawford, Texas.

The image of the Crown Prince at the time angered Israel’s supporters and the enemies of Arabs and Muslims everywhere. A lot has been written and commented, which only leads us to be warned of any attempt to affect the relation between Saudi Arabia and the United States.

Although I am sure that the relation that has been established by King Abdul Aziz and President Roosevelt during World War II, and later fortified by every King and President since then, will remain strong to the benefit of both countries. Its grand test was the terrorism of 9/11 and the relation endured and passed the test.

The Saudi-American relation gained further importance after the mad terrorism which hit the world including the Middle East. The cooperation between the two countries is the cornerstone of all international efforts to fight terrorism. If Saudi Arabia, as the birthplace of Islam, can succeed in defeating the terrorists’ ideology as propagated by an ignorant minority, then the United States would be capable of defeating terrorism militarily.

One day I was in the Crown Prince’s office as he was receiving the victims of the Al Mahia bombings, I heard him utter firm and clear words against the terrorists and their ideology. No one is more capable than King Abdullah in confronting the terrorists since he is a man of honesty, faith and courage.

I expect King Abdullah and Crown Prince Sultan to adopt a new methodology while continuing to work in the same scope on the internal, Arab and international levels.

While I expect for internal reforms from education to the economy and basic services to be carried out easily, I think that the battle with terrorism will be a fierce and long one but I am sure it will end with the terrorists defeated because the other alternative is unacceptable and impossible.

All of us wish the new King and Crown Prince success and I personally expect them to be successful; they are the most qualified to take over after King Fahd bin Abdul Aziz.

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