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Opinion: A King Loyal to Family and Country | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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New Saudi King Salman attends a ceremony with world leaders offering their condolences following the death of the late Saudi King, Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, at the Diwan royal palace in Riyadh January 24, 2015. (Reuters/Yoan Valat)

In 2010, while Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Bin Abdulaziz—then Prince Salman—was leaving a dinner reception held for him in Norway by the country’s minister for higher education, a crowd of people, including Norwegians and members of the Arab and Muslim communities in Norway, gathered outside where the event took place in order to greet him.

As King Salman was waving to the cheering and applauding crowd, two young men shouted, “Prince Salman, Prince Salman!” to get his attention. He immediately stopped and turned to see who they were and they quickly headed toward his car, whereupon they were stopped by his security entourage. But the then-Prince Salman asked his bodyguards to let the two men be, and they were both able to greet him and shake his hand. “I’m from Somalia, I just wanted to shake hands with you,” one of them said, as King Salman took his hand and greeted him warmly. “I’m an Iraqi, welcome Your Majesty,” the other said, whereupon King Salman replied by saying that he hoped the situation in Iraq would improve, to cheers and applause from the crowd.

This incident shows us King Salman as a consummate statesman even before he took on any official position—as he would later do when becoming Minister of Defense and Crown Prince. King Salman is a pillar of the Saudi state who has, from the era of King Abdulaziz Al Saud, the founder of the modern state of Saudi Arabia, until the present day, been at the side of all the country’s kings. During this period, he was tasked with political missions and was active throughout the region and even beyond. Throughout all the time I have had the honor of accompanying His Majesty on various occasions—for almost nine years now—he has always spoken with the utmost respect about his brother kings, and it is clear there is nothing he hates more than ingratitude.

For this reason, King Salman has been known for a number of years now in Saudi Arabia as the “Prince of Loyalty,” a title he most definitely merits through his unflinching loyalty to his brother kings and princes. He was even at the side of Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz, may God rest his soul, throughout his illness, not leaving his bedside until the time came and his soul departed.

And so today we have before us King Salman, the King of Loyalty. Through his desire to develop, reform and refine his country, Saudi Arabia, he called on Prince Muqrin Bin Abdulaziz to become Crown Prince and First Deputy Prime Minister. He has also taken the Kingdom to a new era, appointing for the first time one of its founder King Abdulaziz’s grandsons as heir to the throne: Prince Muhammad Bin Naif is now Deputy Crown Prince and Second Deputy Prime Minister, the first outside the sons of King Abdulaziz to be named in the line of succession.

King Salman’s loyalty to his family is proof of his loyalty to this Kingdom and his belief in protecting and continually developing it for future generations. How can he not be, when he sees himself as a protector of the Kingdom’s history, when he regularly and proudly regales others with the story of how the Kingdom was founded, as I and others have seen on many occasions? Indeed, the world knows that King Salman—the well-informed intellectual, the tireless man of the people—is a consummate statesman, experienced in the political sphere and possessing a clear vision. Because of this the world is optimistic after his ascension to the throne, with full expectations that Saudi Arabia will continue on its course as a regional and world leader throughout his Kingship.