While dealing with the
challenges and opportunities facing his nation during these 20 years, King
Fahd has been more than the head-of-state: to his people he has been a
father figure — a man who despite his busy and demanding schedule —
has always been accessible to his people, meeting with petitioners at his
weekly majlis sessions not only to address their individual concerns, but
also to keep his finger on the pulse of the nation to better understand
its needs and aspirations.
That King Fahd has managed to successfully perform
his many functions and roles in Saudi society has for the most part been
due to the extensive experiences he has acquired over the course of more
than half a century of involvement in public affairs and government.
Fahd with the heads-of-state of the five other member countries
the Gulf Cooperation Council in 1992
Born in Riyadh in 1923, he grew up in a tumultuous era of history. At the time, his
father, King Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman Al-Saud, was engaged in an epic
struggle to unify the tribes of the Arabian Peninsula into a modern nation state, one that he successfully concluded with the
formation of the Kingdom
of Saudi Arabia in 1932.
a young man, then-Prince Fahd (fifth from right)
the Kingdom at important events abroad.
As a young man, Prince Fahd attended the many daily
meetings his father had with visitors from across Saudi Arabia, the Arab world and beyond. It was at his father’s side that he learned
about religion, history, Arab culture and other issues that would serve
him well in the future.
Prince Fahd’s first involvement in world affairs
was at the age of 22 when he accompanied his elder brother Minister of
Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Abdulaziz to the signing of the United
Nations Charter in San Francisco in 1945. This was the prince’s first
official visit abroad, and it triggered a deep interest in international
his capacity as Saudi Arabia's first Minister of Education between 1953
and 1960, then-Prince Fahd visits a women's school.
Working as an advisor to his father and his elder
brothers in the following years, he continued to amass vital experience.
In 1953, King Abdulaziz chose Prince Fahd to represent Saudi Arabia at the coronation of
Great Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, giving him an opportunity to meet heads-of-state
from around the world.
After the death of his father in 1953, Prince Fahd
assumed the portfolio of Minister of Education in the government of his
elder brother King Saud bin Abdulaziz. Serving as his country’s first
Minister of Education involved the complex task of establishing the
foundations of a modern educational system in a country with no
universities and only 30,000 students attending the few schools in
True to his character, Prince Fahd approached the
task with energy and enthusiasm. During his tenure at the Ministry of
Education, which lasted until 1960, Prince Fahd opened hundreds of primary
and secondary schools throughout the Kingdom, making education available
to all Saudis.
Meanwhile, Prince Fahd continued his involvement in
foreign affairs and took on greater diplomatic responsibilities. In 1959
and 1960, he led the Saudi delegations to meetings of the League of Arab
States, held in Morocco and Lebanon, respectively.
Fahd has overseen the Kingdom's dramatic development of the past two
the assistance of Crown Prince Abdullah (left)
Minister of Defense and Aviation Prince Sultan (right).
Appointed to the important position of Minister of
Interior in 1962, Prince Fahd continued to build upon his growing
experience in domestic and foreign affairs by meeting with Saudis from
throughout the Kingdom, as well as with heads-of-state and diplomats from
around the world.
Upon becoming Second Deputy Prime Minister in 1967,
Prince Fahd’s responsibilities grew on both the domestic and
international fronts. Already a recognized figure in the world of
international diplomacy, his extensive travels abroad further deepened his
involvement in global affairs. In 1967, he met with French President
Charles DeGaulle to discuss bilateral relations. In 1970, he led a Saudi
delegation to London where he met with British leaders and discussed regional developments at
an important juncture in Middle East history, when Britain was ending its military presence in the region.
In 1974, Prince Fahd embarked on an official visit to
the United States. Coming as it did shortly after the 1973 Arab-Israeli War and the
upheavals in the world oil market, Prince Fahd’s visit provided an
opportunity for important discussions with President Richard Nixon,
Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and other leading personalities in the
administration and the U.S. Congress. During those discussions, Prince
Fahd and Secretary Kissinger negotiated an agreement that led to the
establishment of the U.S.-Saudi Joint Commission on Economic Cooperation.
This was the first of many agreements initiated by the Saudi leader to
strengthen relations with the United States.
his capacity as Prime Minister, King Fahd chairs
weekly meetings of the Council of Ministers.
Upon the investiture of King Khaled bin Abdulaziz,
Prince Fahd was appointed Crown Prince and Deputy Prime Minister on March 25, 1975. Assuming the chairmanship of various state councils and committees,
Crown Prince Fahd expanded his involvement in the running of the nation at
an important juncture in its modern history: a time when the vast
industrial, agricultural, commercial and social development of the Kingdom
had just begun under the Five-Year Development Plans, and would accelerate
in coming years.
Fahd opens a new session of Majlis Al-Shura
Council) in January 1997.
During his tenure at King Khaled’s right hand,
Crown Prince Fahd would play a growing role in regional and international
diplomacy at a critical time in world history. In 1977, he met with
President Jimmy Carter and Secretary of State Cyrus Vance in Washington, D.C., and helped chart the course for closer ties with the U.S. Crown Prince
Fahd met again with President Carter in Riyadh in 1978, and with other world leaders in the years to follow.
Crown Prince Fahd’s stature as a respected
statesman allowed him to introduce an eight-point plan for a comprehensive
resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict in 1981. The plan, considered one
of the first attempts to find a just and lasting settlement of the
conflict taking into consideration the needs of both the Arabs and Israel
was unanimously adopted by the League of Arab States at a summit
conference in Fez, Morocco, in 1982. “The Kingdom
of Saudi Arabia has always believed that no real peace can prevail in the Middle East
unless a just and permanent resolution is found to the Palestinian
problem,” he said in the initiative. “Peace is the genuine, desire of
all states in the region which have greatly suffered from the wars and
their tragedies.” The initiative is widely acknowledged as the first
serious step on the elusive road to Middle East
peace and formed the basis of future efforts.
Crown Prince Fahd played a pivotal role in the
establishment of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the
Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The OIC’s inaugural meeting, attended by
38 Muslim heads-of-state, was held in the Kingdom in January 1981. The
organization was designed to unify the Islamic world and allow it to more
effectively take collective action against challenges it faced.
Fahd hosts a summit meeting of the
of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in Riyadh
The GCC was established later in 1981, at a time when
the security and stability of the Arabian Gulf
region and the free flow of oil to international markets was being
threatened by the Iran-Iraq War. The GCC is dedicated to strengthening
relations and promoting cooperation among Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait,
Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates in all fields, including defense,
security, finance, commerce, education, culture, health, science and
technology. “We are of the opinion that what we have planned for is
conducive to the enhancement of actual unity that already exists between
Gulf Arab states and to making it a reality for the well-being of our
peoples and for the benefit of all Arab countries,” he explained after
the formation of the GCC.
Fahd has personally supervised and launched
of development projects in his first 20 years of rule.
On June 13, 1982, Crown Prince Fahd became the fifth king to rule the modern
of Saudi Arabia. He took the helm at a time of accelerating socioeconomic development
designed to take advantage of opportunities and successfully meet the
challenges of the future. The development plans first introduced in 1970
were entering a new phase. Whereas the focus in the first years of the
development plans was on establishing the basic infrastructure, the
emphasis had now switched to developing manpower, diversifying the economy
away from oil and promoting the activities of the private sector (see
story, Page 15).
Fahd has led the Saudi Arabian delegation to many meetings of the
of Arab States, the OIC, and other international organizations.
One of Crown Prince Fahd’s first acts was to
supervise a massive project to expand Islam’s two holiest sites, the
Holy Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah, and establish
airports, ports and roads, as well as housing and health facilities for
the millions of pilgrims who visit the Kingdom every year.
Fahd, Crown Prince Abdullah and Prince Sultan in a commemorative photo
after the signing in Riyadh in June 2001 of the historic agreement
the development of the gas industry by American and European oil
Concurrent with his efforts to ensure sound economic
development and the provision of the educational, health and other needs
of his people, King Fahd was also involved in momentous events in the
region and the world. One of his successful campaigns, carried out in
cooperation with the Reagan Administation, provided support for the cause
of the Afghan freedom fighters during the years of Soviet occupation of
their country. After the successful completion of this effort, the Interim
President of Afghanistan Sibghatullah Mojaddidi said that the people of Afghanistan
would never forget King Fahd’s role in their country’s liberation. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said that same year that King Fahd’s
efforts were the driving force behind the victory of the Afghan people.
Fahd visits an exhibit at the Jenadriyah National Culture and Heritage
two-week annual event dedicated to preserving the nation's rich culture
Following the expulsion of the communist regime in
Kabul in 1992, factional fighting broke out among the various Afghan tribes and
ethnic groups, and King Fahd stepped in to help mediate a national
reconciliation agreement between the leaders of the Afghan factions. He
hosted a peace conference held in Makkah, which resulted in an accord
signed on March 12, 1993. However, the factional fighting continued, opening the door to the push
by the Taleban to take power in Afghanistan. While supervising extensive relief operations to ease the suffering of
Afghan refugees, King Fahd continued to urge the factional leaders to halt
the fighting for the sake of their nation.
Fahd with former presidents Gerald Ford (left) and Jimmy Carter (right).
During the 1980s, King Fahd was actively working with
the other countries of the GCC, the League of Arab States and the United
Nations to seek a peaceful settlement of the bloody war between Iran and Iraq, a conflict that threatened regional security, as well as global economic
stability arising from the disruption of oil supplies. The end of fighting
in 1988 removed a major source of instability in the Gulf region.
Fahd and President Ronald Reagan at the White House in February 1985.
Among the other crises that King Fahd helped resolve
was the intensifying civil war in Lebanon, which had brought about the
loss of tens of thousands of lives, population dislocation and immense
damage to the country. King Fahd had dedicated years of diplomacy to
resolving this crisis, and his tireless efforts finally bore fruit in 1989
when he hosted a meeting of Lebanese parliamentarians in Taif, Saudi Arabia. The national reconciliation accord signed in Taif brought an end to the
fighting and opened the way for rebuilding the war-shattered country, with
help from Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries.
Fahd and President George Bush led the international coalition
confront Iraqi aggression against Kuwait.
Perhaps the greatest international crisis of King
Fahd’s rule occurred when Iraq invaded Kuwait on August 2, 1990. In an attempt to defuse the looming tragedy, King Fahd hosted a meeting
of senior Kuwaiti and Iraqi officials on July 28 to resolve their
differences. The effort failed to head off the crisis, and Iraq attacked and occupied
Kuwait within days of the meeting.
With a belligerent Iraqi military force occupying
Kuwait and poised within striking distance of Saudi urban and economic centers,
King Fahd and U.S. President George Bush jointly led a diplomatic effort
to condemn Iraqi aggression at the United Nations, the GCC and other
international and regional organizations. Faced with Baghdad ’s intransigence and its refusal to abide by UN Security Council
resolutions calling for withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Kuwait, King Fahd and President Bush rallied a coalition of Arab, Islamic and
European countries to confront the Iraqi aggression. An allied coalition
led by the United States and Saudi Arabia liberated Kuwait on February 27, 1991.
King Fahd then turned his attention to another
emerging crisis in the region, this time in Somalia, where famine caused by civil war and drought had resulted in the deaths
of tens of thousands and the displacement of millions. Despite the best
diplomatic efforts of Saudi Arabia and the United Nations to mediate a halt to the fighting, Somali factions
continued to battle for power. In December 1992, King Fahd ordered a
contingent of Saudi troops to Somalia under the auspices of the UN Security Council to participate in the
international effort to help secure the delivery and distribution of tens
of thousands of tons of relief supplies from Saudi Arabia and other countries.
Fahd welcomes President Bill Clinton to Saudi Arabia in October 1994.
King Fahd also played a leading role in the
resolution of another crisis, this time in Europe, where Serbian forces of the former
Yugoslavia had unleashed a bloody campaign of ethnic cleansing against the people of
Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia. Working on the international diplomatic scene, King Fahd helped
formulate a broad-based strategy to condemn and halt the naked aggression.
Beginning in June 1992, King Fahd issued instructions for the formation of
committees throughout Saudi Arabia to collect donations from citizens for the people of
Bosnia. The first shipment of relief supplies was sent on July 19, to be
followed by hundreds of others. King Fahd’s diplomatic campaign to halt
the Serbian aggression helped mobilize international efforts that led to
an end to the bloodshed.
The ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict is a source of
great tension and instability in the Middle East and beyond. Dedicated to securing a just and lasting peace that would end
the suffering of the Palestinian people, King Fahd has been personally
involved in the resolution of this conflict. In 1991, Saudi Arabia participated in the
Madrid peace talks co-sponsored by the United States and the former Soviet Union. It welcomed the signing of the declaration of principles between the
Palestinian Authority and Israel in Washington, D.C., on September 13, 1993, and the subsequent efforts to achieve a just and comprehensive peace on
the basis of UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. Shortly after
the signing of the accord, Saudi Arabia pledged 100 million dollars to support development in the occupied
Most recently, with King Fahd’s blessing and
guidance, in February 2002 Deputy Prime Minister and Commander of the
National Guard Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdulaziz unveiled a bold
initiative for resolving the crisis on the basis of Israeli withdrawal
from all Arab territories it occupied in the 1967 war in return for full
normalization of relations between the two sides. This plan was adopted by
the summit meeting of the League of Arab States in Beirut in March and is supported by the
United States and the international community.
Fahd meets Vice President Dick Cheney in Jeddah in March 2002
discuss the U.S.-led effort to confront terrorism.
King Fahd has also worked to improve
Saudi Arabia ’s relations with all countries, especially with its neighbors. During
his first 20 years of rule, the Kingdom has finalized border agreements
with Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Yemen, helping further promote stability and cooperation.
Domestically, King Fahd’s first two decades of rule
will always be remembered for not only the massive socioeconomic
development he supervised, but also for the measures he has taken to
revitalize and streamline government and the economy to allow the Kingdom
to better deal with the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.
In 1992, he introduced the new Basic Law for the
System of Government, which identifies the nature of the state, its goals
and responsibilities, and the relationship between the ruler and citizens,
emphasizing the equality of all citizens before the law.
Fahd and the Emir of Bahrain Shaikh Issa bin Salman Al-Khalifah.
That same year, the King restructured
(the Consultative Council), to give it a more formal and efficient
mechanism. The new system required a council with a chairman and 60
members, and outlined its main responsibility as discussion of
regulations, domestic and international issues, and all other matters of
public interest, and advising the King. In 1997, King Fahd increased the
number of council members to 90, and in 2001 to 120 to better deal with
its growing responsibilities.
Also in 1992, King Fahd introduced the new bylaws for
the Provincial System to make the administration of the country’s 13
provinces more efficient and help promote their development.
King Fahd introduced new bylaws for the Council of Ministers, under which
the council has been made responsible for drafting and overseeing
implementation of the internal, external, financial, economic, educational
and defense policies, as well as the general affairs of the state.
King Fahd then turned his attention to introducing
measures to allow the Saudi economy to continue to grow in new directions.
With the basic infrastructure in place and traditional economic activities
booming, he formed the Supreme Economic Council in September 1999. Giving
the council responsibility for economic growth that was previously
assigned to a range of diverse government ministries and agencies, the
measure allows for the formation of a cohesive economic policy. It also
gives the council responsibility for coordinating the activities of
various government organizations and formulating general economic policy.
In January 2000, King Fahd ordered the formation of
the Supreme Council for Petroleum and Minerals to facilitate the process
of formulating policy and decision making with a view to further develop
the petroleum and minerals sector.
Fahd and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
In April 2000, King Fahd introduced three other
initiatives to promote economic development. First was the establishment
of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority to encourage greater
foreign and domestic investment in the economy by eliminating red
tape and providing incentives. Second was the formation of the Supreme
Commission for Tourism to expand the tourist industry and facilitate
private investment in this field. Third was the introduction of the new
Foreign Investment Law that gives foreign investors the same benefits,
incentives and guarantees that are offered to Saudi individuals and
companies, and allows foreign investors full ownership of projects and
their related property.
Fahd and Chinese President Jiang Zemin.
Another bold step designed to further enhance
economic growth was taken in June 2001 when Saudi Arabia opened its huge energy sector to foreign oil companies.
Saudi Arabia signed agreements with American and European oil companies for billions of
dollars of investments in the gas sector, as well as for the
implementation of projects for electric power generation, water
desalination and the development of the natural gas and petrochemical
with former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
The inhuman terrorist attacks against the
United States on September 11, 2001, constitute the last major event of the first 20 years of King Fahd’s
rule. Saudi Arabia immediately condemned the tragedy, and King Fahd put his considerable
prestige behind the campaign to forge an international coalition to help
prevent future incidents. He also supported the U.S.-led international
effort to oust the Taleban regime from Afghanistan and restore normalcy to that battered country.
Fahd and former South African President Nelson Mandela.
The legacy of King Fahd’s first 20 years of rule is
one of prosperity and stability. During that period, he has dedicated his
life to ensuring the well-being of his people, to helping resolve regional
and international crises, and to alleviating the sufferings of people