Monday, January 26, 2015


"A cautious reformer whose ascent to the throne helped restore some popular legitimacy to the al-Saud family, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud steered the world’s largest oil exporter through some of its most fraught times. After Saudi nationals in al-Qaeda carried out the September 11 attacks on the US, he confronted a crisis in relations with Washington, a crucial ally and the main guarantor of the country’s security. Al-Qaeda turned its sights on the al-Saud, killing dozens of civilians and foreigners in Saudi cities, but under Abdullah’s leadership the group was defeated inside the kingdom. The fight against Islamist extremists continued, however, and in the months before Abdullah died his country was part of a US-led alliance battling the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or Isis, a group that had taken over swaths of Syria and Iraq and was at least as extreme as al-Qaeda.... Born in 1923, Abdullah was the 13th of 45 recorded sons of King Abdulaziz al-Saud, or Ibn Saud, founder of present-day Saudi Arabia. Unlike some of his half-brothers, who had acquired an early taste for the fleshpots of Europe, Abdullah spent his youth on Saudi soil. He was proficient at both falconry and as a horseman — hobbies that helped strengthen his links with the tribes, with whom he spent much time and who in return held him in high regard. “Punctual, modest and unpretentious to a degree,” according to one US scholar who knew him for more than 25 years — particularly when set against what one Saudi businessman calls “the financial greed” and traits of other leading members of his family.... Although his dream was to create a state based on institutions sturdier than the whims of royals, his death leaves that ambition unfulfilled as Saudi Arabia struggles to shield itself from demands for change unleashed elsewhere in the Arab world. Once assumed to be a traditionalist and an Arab nationalist who would undermine Saudi Arabia’s special relationship with the US, Abdullah passed one of his toughest tests in the aftermath of the deadly 2001 attacks on New York and Washington. US public anger against the ruling al-Saud, fanned by senior members of President George W Bush’s administration, threatened the very foundations of Saudi society, even as it forced the kingdom’s rulers to confront how the country’s Wahhabi religious teachings gave rise to the horrors of al-Qaeda. Abdullah was caught between hardening US attitudes, an inert state bureaucracy and a reactionary religious establishment that regarded social and political reforms not only as a direct threat to its own existence but also to the survival of the nation’s brand of Islam, the bedrock of its identity"
"Obituary: King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, Saudi Arabian ruler, 1923-2015". The Financial Times. 23 January 2015, in
"If 1954 was a formative year for the new Saudi Arabia, 1955 may be regarded as the first year of its deplorable maturity. Looking back on it I am struck most by the appalling growth of Saudi vanity and arrogance. By bribing unscrupulously, and by playing on Washington's fears of Communism and concern for American interests in this country, the Saudi rulers have in the past year achieved a position in the Middle East which they conceitedly regard as that of a major Power.... While paltry sums are spent on the betterment of the people [sic] millions are drained away b the royal family's craze for palaces and the King's plans to rebuild Riyadh his capital, by the sottish behaviour of the princes and their friends, by (admittedly more essential) the large subventions required to retain the loyalty of the tribes as well as political subversion abroad, and the growing commitment of the armed forces. It is unlikely that this rate of unproductive spending will decrease; indeed, human greed being what it is, it is improbable that it could. Will this momentum of spending, increasingly enormously, eventually spin the regime off its feet? Not necessarily, I think. So assured are the oil supplies that the process of mortgaging the oil revenues, which has already been accomplished to the extent of one year's income, could continue almost indefinitely."
Phillips (Jedda) to Foreign Office. Titled "Saudi Arabia: Annual Review for 1955". 22 January 1956. British Documents on Foreign Affairs: Reports and papers from the Foreign Office Confidential Print. Part V, 1951-1956. Volume 12. Series B: Near & Middle East 1956. (2010). pp. 111,113.
Well 'indefinitely' is most assuredly the mot exact as per the query raised by this member of the British diplomatic staff in Saudi Arabia in 1956. The passing away of the late King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia merely underlines the fact that nothing much has changed in certain aspects as per the Kingdom in the past sixty years. The Al-Saud family, corruption and the like notwithstanding among many of its members, still rules the roost as per Saudi Arabian politics. As per the Financial Times obituary, the late King did in his own very conservative fashion, endeavoured to bring both his homeland to a lesser extent the monarchy into the 'modern age'. As the horrid case of the poor wretch of a blogger who was recently given one-thousand lashes as a punishment shows, this endeavour has not gone very far 1. The real issue is of course that like much of the rest of the Arab world, the concept of 'reform' has a very janus-face aspect to it. On the one-hand, one would ordinarily think that almost anything could be an improvement over the current fossilised entity otherwise known as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. On the other hand, in the past four years, the West has seen what comes of 'reform' and 'revolution' in the Arab world. Viz: Syria, Iraq Libya and elsewhere, it is not a pretty sight. Nor does the immediate future offer much hope that things will change for the better anytime soon. With that being said, perhaps, very very much faute de mieux, the best that is on offer for the Western powers is a continuance in power of the neither very appealing or attractive (in every sense of the word) Al-Saud clan. That and the development as much as is possible of alternative energy sources from the oil that seems to exist in endless quantities in the deserts of the Arabian peninsula. For au fond, the Saudis either royal or non-royal are fundamentally as anti-Western (due to their endemic anti-Christian biases) as the lunatics of Al Qaeda and ISIS.
1. See: George Parker, "UK flag tribute to Saudi king criticised". The Financial Times. 23 January 2015. In


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