King Saud bin Abdulaziz Al Saud


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Abdulaziz’ eldest son Saud acceded to the throne upon his father’s death. He continued King Abdulaziz’s legacy, creating the Council of Ministers and establishing the Ministries of Health, Education and Commerce. One of King Saud’s greatest successes was the development of education – under his rule many schools were established in the Kingdom, including its first institute of higher education, King Saud University, in 1957.

King Saud bin Abdulaziz Al Saud was King of Saudi Arabia from 1953 to 1964. He was the second son of Ibn Saud, the founding father and first monarch of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Saud was born on 15 January 1902 in Kuwait city, Kuwait, at the home of Amir Abdul Rahman bin Faisal. They were in district of Sakkat Anaza where the family was staying after their exile from Riyadh. After his father Abdulaziz conquered Riyadh in 1902, Saud followed him with his mother and brothers.

At five years of age, his father took him to Sheikh Abdul Rahman Mufaireej where he was taught Shari’a and the Qur’an. He also learned skills such as archery and horse-riding. King Abdulaziz made Saud attend the meetings that he held in order to learn and develop political skills required for his future political position.

Saud’s first political mission commenced at the mere age of thirteen where he led a delegation to Qatar. He led the first war against Ha’il in 1921 becoming the leader of Saudi troops fighting in Yemen. In addition, Saud participated in eight wars before his accession to throne: Grab War, Yabet War, Truba, Alkuras, Hail, Alhijaz, Almahmal and the Ikhwan Revolt.

He was appointed Saudi Crown Prince by his father on 11 May 1933. Before the death of King Abdulaziz, Prince Saud was also named Prime Minister. Prince Saud was very close to his father, upon whose death he said in deep dismay: “I lost my father…and my friend.” Saud succeeded his father as King on 9 November 1953.

His reign mirrored his extravagant lifestyle driving the Kingdom into financial difficulty and to the brink of bankruptcy. He spent state funds on many glamorous palaces, all at a time when Saudi Arabia was still struggling economically. However, King Saud had many notable achievements establishing numerous governmental ministries. In 1957, he founded King Saud University in Riyadh. The first modern university of the Saudi Kingdom.

King Saud bin Abdulaziz Al Saud was keen to give his own sons power appointing them to high governmental positions. From 1953 to 1964, the appointment of eight ministers were partly to contain the fermenting demands for political participation amongst members of the royal household. Saud placed his son Fahd as Minister of Defence, his son Musaid to lead the Royal Guard, his son Khalid to command the National Guard, and his son Saad in the Special Guard. Other sons were also appointed to prominent government offices including the second Minister of Defence, governor of Riyadh Province, and governor of Makkah Province. These became known as “little kings.” Saud’s appointments annoyed the king’s half-brothers. They considered his sons too inexperienced for such demanding responsibilities. His decisions were typically considered personal and spontaneous. He could not conceive of the notion that the government is above the family.

A fierce struggle between Ibn Saud’s most senior sons, Saud and Faisal, erupted soon after his death. The increase in oil revenues did not solve the financial problems associated with the countries debts. These were estimated to have been approximately $US200 million in 1953 but by 1958 this debt more than doubled reaching a peak of $US450 million. Saud and Faisal fought an internal battle over the definition of political responsibilities and the division of government functions. The conflict between the two brothers is often described as originating from the desire of Faisel to curb his brother’s spending and solve Saudi Arabia’s financial crisis. The dispute between the two brothers was primarily over the role to be assigned to the Council of Ministers. Saud abolished the office of Prime Minister by royal decree resulting in his position as King being and de facto prime minister being enforced. Saud thought of himself as both King and prime minister whereas Faisal envisaged more powers and responsibility being allocated to his own hand.

While Saud preferred Saudi tradition, new forms of economic expansion where becoming more popular amongst the other Arab nations. This required adaption to the traditional approach to ensure the economy maintained a competitive edge. From an international perspective, King Saud disregarded his father’s view on non-involvement. His first move was to lead the Egyptian and Syrian coalition for neutrality. A policy taken to oppose the Iraqi call for a Western-sponsored regional defense arrangement Baghdad Pact. Pacts were thus signed in 1955 between Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia. At the same time, Saud supported Gamal Abdel Nasser’s takeover of the Suez Canal, Egypt. He later severed his diplomatic relations with France and Britain establishing oil export sanctions.

In siding with Egypt during the Suez Crisis, his oil exports declined, yet whilst adopting the Eisenhower Doctrine, he was opposed by a rising Arab nationalism and by Nasserism. Saud became worried about the rise of Nasser. This was only emphasised by propaganda of the military revolutionaries in Egypt beginning to be spread with fierce calls for the destruction of the monarchies in the Arab world. From the mid-1950s until 1967, Saudi Arabia fought in a bitter conflict against the Soviet-backed Egypt.

King Saud’s family members worried about Saud’s extravagance and inability to meet socialist challenge posed by Nasser. Corruption and backwardness were weakening the regime and anti-Saudi propaganda was finding a receptive audience. King Saud and Prince Faisal continued their power struggle until 1962, when Prince Faisal formed a cabinet during the absence of the King. The three leading figures being Prince Faisal allied with Prince Fahd and Prince Sultan. Prince Faisel promised a ten-point reform that included the drafting of a basic law, the abolition of slavery and the establishment of a judicial council. King Saud rejected the suggested arrangement and threatened to mobilize the Royal Guard against Faisel. Prince Faisal ordered the mobilization of the National Guard against King Saud. With the arbitration of the ulema and pressure from other senior royals, King Saud yielded. He abdicated the throne on 28 March 1964.

King Saud was forced into exile in Geneva, Switzerland, and then on to other cities throughout Europe. In 1966, Saud was invited by Nasser to live in Egypt and stayed there from 1965 to 1967. Some of his sons, such as Prince Khalid, Prince Badr, Prince Sultan and Prince Mansur, joined him and supported his attempt to regain power, however, after the Arab-Israel War, he lost the support of Egypt and settled in Greece until 1969.

Two days before his death Saud fell ill. He later suffered a heart attack in his sleep. His body was taken to Makkah where the funeral prayer was performed in the Masjid al-Haram, and then finally to Riyadh where he was buried in Al-Oud cemetery where he was buried alongside his father.