As King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz ascends to the throne of Saudi Arabia , questions are being asked on future Saudi policies regarding strategic issues. What is the King’s position on Arab issues and relations with Arab governments? What is his stance on reform and will he meet U.S demands in this respect?
The Arab and Western media have been awash with question marks since King Abdullah was declared monarch of Saudi Arabia . Observers who have closely followed the behavior of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques since his days as Crown Prince can easily answer these queries; the sovereign has always acted clearly and openly.
On the subject of Abdullah bin Abdulaziz and the Arab world, it is sufficient to mention one of the thorniest political matters between an Arab country and the world’s sole superpower, the U.S. The Lockerbie tragedy kept Libya isolated from the international community for over a decade until King Abdullah interfered and finally found a solution, during his term as Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.
In an interview with an Arab satellite channel, I was asked: what about the Palestinian problem? My answer concentrated on the historic meeting between Crown Prince Abdullah and President George W. Bush in Crawford , Texas , following the attacks of September 11, 2001 . Despite relations between the two allies being very tense at the time, the Palestinian issues was never absent from King Abdullah”s mind. Some facts must remain secret but I can reveal that, whereas the U.S delegation was interested in a few Palestinian figures, the Saudi side expressed its concern for the Palestinian cause in its entirety!
It was King Abdullah himself who proposed the Arab initiative for peace at the Beirut summit in 2002. A member of a visiting U.S delegation told me in Riyadh , prior to the attacks of September 11, that Crown Prince held solid convictions in this regard and was planning to publicize his vision. His initiative was not a reaction to the attacks on US cities. Clearly, he was a leader who sought peace. Let us not forget that the monarch himself had delivered a famous message to Washington that touched on the heart of Saudi-US relations for the sake of solving the Palestinian conflict.
Most recently, King Abdullah stood by Lebanon , in the aftermath of the assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and insisted on finding and punishing those responsible for the henious crime. King Abdullah has always been celebrated for his ability as a problem solver.
With regards to reform, a number of critics wrongly assumed it was linked to U.S pressures on the Kingdom. They painted a picture wherereform was an American wish and argued about its merits, according to their views of Washington”s policies and completely disregarding the needs of Saudi Arabia .
In truth, an analysis of King Abdullah’s speeches as Crown Prince, beginning in 1998, clearly indicates he is a reformist leader. After all, it was King Abdullah who spoke in the Eastern region on women’s rights and said Saudi Arabia would never accept the world thinking it could not care for its daughters and sisters. The monarch had also visited poor neighborhoods and announced the leadership would address real problems. He even waged war on terrorism and said, in his honest speeches, that the fight against terror will continue, even if it takes thirty years or longer. It was King Abdullah, in a famous speech, at a meeting of Gulf countries, who announced that the age of impetuosity had officially come to an end!
His views are clear and his opinions rooted in history, even if situations change.