Fahd bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud (Saudi Arabia)

Reference work entry


King Fahd succeeded to the throne on 13 June 1982 on the death of his half-brother, Khalid. A son of Abdulaziz Al-Saud, the founder of modern Saudi Arabia, he was the country’s fifth king. Like his predecessors, he maintained absolute executive and legislative power, but broadened the process of political consultation and decision-making. He also encouraged the diversification of the economy away from reliance on oil, and oversaw the growth of the private sector’s contribution to gross domestic product to more than a third. In international relations, he adopted a moderate stance on regional problems and allied the Kingdom closely with the western industrialised nations, particularly the United States.

Early Life

King Fahd was born in 1923. After his formal education in Riyadh he began his diplomatic career, initially as a member of the Saudi delegation to the signing in San Francisco in 1945 of the United Nations Charter. In 1953, during his father’s reign, he was appointed as the first minister of education and is credited with helping to develop a nationwide school system. While continuing to represent the Kingdom in international diplomacy, he held the posts of interior minister from 1962–75 and, from 1967, second deputy prime minister. His first official visit to the United States in 1974 strengthened bilateral ties (at a tense time of rising oil prices) and resulted in the creation of a joint commission on economic co-operation.

In 1975, as Khalid was proclaimed King, Fahd was invested as Crown Prince and first deputy prime minister. In this role he backed the modernization of the country’s infrastructure under the second and third 5 year development plans (1975–79 and 1980–84). In international affairs his increasingly active role was reflected in his eight-point peace plan to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict. Proposed in 1981, it was accepted by Arab states (with some reservation and amendment) but rejected ultimately by Israel.

Career Peak

On Khalid’s death in June 1982, Fahd assumed the crown. He continued the 5 year cycle of development programmes to expand the private sector and restructure the economy in favour of non-oil industrial sectors and social welfare. Politically, the King made significant changes within the confines of an absolute monarchy. In 1992 he introduced a new basic law defining the systems of central and municipal government. He also set up a Consultative Council (Majlis Al-Shura) of royal appointees in 1993, which has since been expanded to 90 members in 1997 and 120 in May 2001. As the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques of Makkah and Madinah, the holiest of Islamic sites, Fahd continued the policy of his predecessors to extend facilities for the 2m. Muslim pilgrims from around the world who visit them each year.

King Fahd was a participant in successful diplomatic efforts to end the Iran-Iraq war in 1988 and in the 1989 Taif reconciliation accord bringing the 14 year Lebanese civil war to a close. His pro-western stance and co-operation in the 1990–91 Gulf crisis were crucial to the deployment and successful military operations of the US-led multinational force raised against Iraq following its invasion of Kuwait. He was later involved in international efforts to resolve crises in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Somalia, and supported the Middle East peace process launched in 1991.

After Fahd suffered a stroke in 1995, Crown Prince Abdullah Ibn Abdulaziz Al-Saud, his half-brother, assumed day-to-day administrative control. King Fahd died on 1 Aug. 2005.

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