Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

The Sultan of politics | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Late Saudi Crown Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz has been a key player in the political scene in Saudi Arabia since the 1960s. However not much is known about him due to the nature of Saudi Arabian politics, that of the short statements, not to mention the protocol of the Saudi leadership that is committed to administrative hierarchy and family values.

According, a lot has been said about the magnanimity, generosity and nobility of the departed, whilst little has been said about his political role, despite the fact that he was involved in all Saudi Arabian official activity over the past 50 years, with regards to his multiple duties, from Minister of Defense and Aviation to Saudi Crown Prince. He played a key role in the negotiations with regards to settling all Saudi Arabian border disputes, whilst he also proved effective in managing the different crises that Saudi Arabia faced, from Nasserism to Baathism to Khomeinism. He was appointed by successive rulers to strengthen the country’s ties and build alliances. Prince Sultan’s name has gone down in history as one of those who helped Egypt – during the Anwar Sadat era – to break Cairo’s ties with the Soviet Union, which represented a political, military, and financial burden to Egypt. During this era, Prince Sultan exerted [diplomatic] efforts to help Sadat liberate Egypt from the Soviet camp. This was during the early days of Sadat’s rule, and was the step that allowed him to launch the 1973 war without requiring Soviet engagement. This allowed Sadat to keep the decision to go to war a closely-guarded secret. Prince Sultan was also assigned successive and important roles with regards to the establishment of the Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC], as well as settling the numerous disputes surrounding this. He was a party in resolving practically all of the Arab issues that involved Saudi Arabia, such an ending the Lebanon war. Despite undertaking all of these tasks, it is hard to find Prince Sultan’s name mentioned in a clear or frank manner in this regard, and that is due to the reasons mentioned above.

Prince Sultan, may God have mercy on him, was the right-hand man to Saudi Arabia’s kings. This began in his youth during the reign of King Faisal, and he remained effective during the reigns of King Khalid and King Fahd, as well as after he was appointed Saudi Crown Prince during the reign of King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz. Accordingly he was known as the keeper of Saudi Arabia’s secrets, and its main [political] player. Despite all the important positions he held, and his long years of service, he never revealed these [secrets] or took a single step to gain power, rather he was always known as a model of discipline. In 1981, King Khalid – accompanied by Prince Sultan – visited Britain. During this visit, Prince Sultan became angry at the royal protocol which failed to inform him that the King had already departed [the airplane] to meet the motorcade. This was because Prince Sultan believed that protocol dictated that he and others should have preceded the King, in order to receive him [on the ground]. Prince Sultan was dedicated to respecting hierarchy, and refrained from talking about his activities, although this did not hide the fact that he was a major player in the Saudi state for almost half a century.

On the domestic political scene, we have known Prince Sultan as one of the most active Saudi leaders in domestic politics. We have also known him – as is the case with most senior Royal family members – thanks to his strong links with all segments of Saudi society, from tribes, religious figures, businessmen, university lecturers and intellectuals, who he has been keen to communicate with over the past decades. Prince Sultan was the model of statesmanship, and he strongly contributed to the presence, continuance, and vitality of Saudi Arabia.