These are not ordinary days for Saudi Arabia and the rest of the region, and the question is always: how do we deal with these tremors? The death of Crown Prince Naif came as a surprise and confused everyone, and King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz was faced with a test regarding how best to handle the emergency vacuum, in light of the tense regional events and lurking circumstances.
Ultimately, the King surprised us, not with his choice of Crown Prince, because he chose an active and prominent member of the ruling system, but rather because he resolved the matter so quickly, in less than 24 hours after the Saudi state had begun mourning. I think that history will remember King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud as a leader with great popularity and decisiveness, who never hesitated in the moment of truth. In the past years he has made some difficult decisions, some of which were a surprise, and some of which were issued as quickly as his decision yesterday. Since he resolved this matter immediately, he sent the message that the Kingdom is cohesive. He chose the 25th son of the founder of the Saudi state to be the eighth Crown Prince in the country’s history.
The man chosen to be the Crown Prince, Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz, is one of the most famous personalities in the Arab world. He is an active politician who has toured the world and has engaged with it at different levels. Since the 1950s he has been present at major political events, and throughout consecutive decades he has dealt with the regions’ leaders and governments. He can be seen in historical photographs from Egypt, for example, along with all the leaders of the 1952 revolution, such as Muhammed Naguib and Gamal Abdul Nasser. He has dealt with complex Arab and Gulf issues from their very beginnings, and he has been a longstanding companion to Lebanese leaders and their political houses, from Fouad Chehab to Charles Helou, and from Hussein al-Oweini and Riad as-Solh to Omar Karami.
We know a lot about politicians from their majlises [a weekly meet-and-greet where an official engages with the local populace], and Prince Salman’s are always full of individuals from all classes and from all countries in the region, channeling the same spirit and philosophy as his father King Abdulaziz, who became famous in the first half of the 20th century for holding huge majlises with a great mix of Arabs in attendance, from Syrians, Egyptians, Libyans, Iraqis and Palestinians, introducing them all to his project for a new kingdom. Many notable names have attended Prince Salman’s majlises, including historical figures such as the late thinker Muhammad Asad, and even Ghassan Tueni, who only recently passed away. Prince Salman does not only know a great many intellectuals and politicians from beyond the borders of his country, but it could also be argued that he is one of the most knowledgeable Saudis when it comes to the Kingdom’s tribes and families, and the detailed history of the Kingdom’s cities and regions, reflecting his personal interest.
With this experience and detailed knowledge, everyone knows that the new Saudi Crown Prince is a wise and learned man, in a country that is a guarantor of stability in the region. We must acknowledge that our society judges a regime by its men, and this is why we always ask and inspect at length the nature of each man assigned to become a leader.
In my opinion, a country like Saudi Arabia, despite all its capabilities, is not immune from mistakes, nor is it a country facing a practice test. It is not true that money or time can solve all problems. The challenges that the Saudi regime faces are no less difficult than those faced by other states, and this is what makes us search for leaders with wisdom, experience, responsibility and a knowledge of the past and the present.