Wednesday, August 10, 2005

“The Most Intelligent of his Generation” Rests in Peace…The Kingdom is in Safe Hands

Jihad el Khazen Al-Hayat 04/08/05/

If I had to choose one quality of King Fahd bin Abdul Aziz amongst all the ideas rushing through my head, I would say he was the most intelligent young man of his generation. King Fahd, Mercy Upon his Soul, was always a pioneer, whether regarding modern education, the security of his country and the region, administration of oil issues or Arab initiatives. He had foresight about how to lead the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia into safety.

Fahd bin Abdul Aziz achieved countless accomplishments throughout his years in public service. I have my own impressions about a man I have known and followed for three decades or so.

I met him first in Riyadh in 1974; about a year before the death of King Faisal. I thought he was so modest that one forgets he is a prince but so dignified that one cannot see but a real prince.

It was clear that he was dealing with the oil file at a time when the oil prices were four times more expensive than the usual price. I heard his opinions at the time and what he said became the basis of an interview I made with US Secretary of the Treasury at the time, William Simon; which was published by Al Hayat and “The Daily Star” (I was the editor-in-chief of the latter).

The best that the American minister hoped was for the oil prices to remain within the limits of 15 dollars a barrel, however, the prices soared again in 1979-1980. After Fahd bin Abdul Aziz took over the reins following his brother Khaled in 1983, the oil prices decreased to an all time low and King Fahd dealt with the oil prices file with wisdom. Now as he rests in peace oil prices have increased to a record high.

Once more, I talk about my personal impressions about the work of Fahd bin Abdul Aziz. I will go beyond the official registered history, which will be recorded, once again, with the passing away of the King.

Fahd bin Abdul Aziz’s role in modernizing his country’s educational system is known. I will only add a remark about the King’s interest in educating Saudi women; he had visited Washington in the eighties when I used to live there. One day he received Saudi and Arab women, while we were there, and he praised my colleague, Naila Ibrahim Al Suwail, head of the Saudi press agency in Washington. King Fahd welcomed haer and praised her work in the agency, stressing that he wanted all Saudi girls to learn and work and assuring that he will be at their side to meet all their needs.

After a few hours, Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman, the Bahraini Prime Minister, told me in his office in Manama that had it not been for King Fahd’s wisdom and fast action, it would have been the end for all of us. Sheikh Khalifa was talking about the King’s move before ally and friendly countries, asking for assistance after the occupation of Kuwait.

Before and after, King Fahd was the architect of many Arab, Palestinian and Lebanese initiatives. In Lebanon specifically, the Taef accord brought peace back to Lebanon. In Palestine, had the Palestinians accepted the Fez initiative, they would have obtained more than what they demand today, with no hope of getting.

The week that I spent in following up the work of the “Crown Price” during an official visit to France during the summer of 1979 is the source of my impressions on the King, as a person and a statesman.

Relations with Egypt were passing through one of their worst periods, following Camp David accord and its outcome. I was assigned to present to the Prince a summary of the Arab and world press in the morning while he was residing in the house of his brother, Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, who is the current Crown Prince. I remember telling the King one morning that President Anwar Sadat attacked Saudi Arabia in a speech given in el Zaqaziq. The King commented on what he heard, then took back his anger and said: “a summer cloud”.

The next day I found myself forced to tell him that President Sadat attacked the Saudi policy again in a speech at Kfar Al Zayyat. Once again he did not respond with any criticism but spoke of the political and economic aid that his country has offered Egypt in recent years, especially following the 1973 War.

King Fahd bin Abdul Aziz modest way of speaking reminds me of something I heard from my dear friend, Issa Sabbagh, a Palestinian-American diplomat who used to translate to US presidents and ministers since the days of Richard Nixon. Issa Sabbagh told me once that US politicians and journalists used to inform King Faysal about President Jamal Abdul Nasser’s criticisms or attacks on Saudi Arabia. King Faysal used to respond each time: President Jamal Abdul Nasser is my brother.

I have known the kings of Saudi Arabia since King Faysal, Mercy Upon his Soul. Each king is different from the other, yet they are all very polite, receive their guests well and display the authentic Arab hospitality.

When King Fahd got sick lately, I read numerous articles and analysis about the succession and the princes’ positions, as about their agreements and differences.

I always believed that matters in Saudi Arabia are already determined since the King will be Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz and the Crown Prince will be Sultan bin Abdul Aziz. This is what really happened.

I understand that opponent journalists, among supporters of Israel, would write wishfully and not factually, however, I wish some Arabs would refrain from being carried away and follow them. Power in Saudi Arabia has been passed on by way of death, assassination and natural death once again. Every time the ruling family chooses a new King and Crown prince, immediately after the late king’s death.

Abdullah and Sultan are the best to take over and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is in safe hands, which have been trained to rule for a very long time. They are bestowed with the required intelligence, wisdom and experience to safeguard and protect the country and people.


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