King of Saudi ArabiaNext
- In-Country Power
- International Power
- Military Strength
- Special Skill: Well-born
- Official Title: King
- Government: Monarchy
- Years Left in Office: Life
- Political Classification: Extreme-right
- Education: Undetermined. Like he needed it?
- Age: 99 (born August 1, 1924)
King Abdullah Facts and Information
- King Abdullah is the old-school absolute monarch and leader of Saudi Arabia
- King Abdullah is a major player in the global ‘war on terrorism’
- King Abdullah has been busy holding his divided country together
- King Abdullah is HUGE ally of the US, and ‘Team West’ in general
- King Abdullah has been arming the hell out of Saudi Arabia, mostly to counter a growing threat from Iran
- King Abdullah’s Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest oil exporter and primary player of OPEC
- King Abdullah's Saudi Arabia is now a member of the G-20
Hail to the King! When you head over to Saudi Arabia, there is only one main guy you need to worry about, and that’s the rizzle, the shizzle, and the Azizzle….King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud to be exact. Damn that’s a lot of names! We will just call him Abdullah for short. And he has a butt-load of titles too: he is simultaneously King of Saudi Arabia, Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, and Commander of the Saudi National Guard. Wow! Abdullah must get paid a lot of jack to wear all those hats….oh, yeah, he kind of does: he is worth an estimated $21 billion dollars! It’s good to be da’ King! Let’s take all these titles one at a time….
The King: Having been Regent for his brother King Fahd from 1996 to 2005, he finally got the wear the crown himself. Why was he regent? Answer: Fahd had a major stroke and was incapacitated for years; but since he wasn’t officially dead, Abdullah couldn’t take his place until after the fact. Gotta love that old school monarchy business. Actually, no you don’t. I hate monarchy; all that pompous nonsense and allusion to their god-granted right to rule based on family lineage. What a joke. But I digress into democratic-freedom-loving personal opinion….
As King, Abdullah represents the current lineage as the head of the House of Al Saud…and that is their family/clan name. Yeah, the country is named Saudi Arabia, which can roughly be translated as ‘the Arabia of the Saud’…it would be the equivalent of renaming the US as ‘the America of the Obamas.’ As the core of ‘Arab-ness’, the House of Saud clan has been around and in power on the peninsula for the better part of the last 250 years, and has been marked by a desire to unify the Arabian Peninsula and to spread what it promotes as a more purified view of Islam.
Let’s get this straight: there are no other rival claims to the throne/leadership…this is medieval-style monarchy in the modern era. Only Abdullah’s family line can actually wield power and say what’s what. They get to tap into and control the wealth of the entire state based upon their extended family networks…in other words, they get all the jack simply by being born into it. It’s good to be da’ King!
But Abdullah is also Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia….which means he is the effective head of the functioning government too. Most ‘kings’ in today’s world are just figureheads that go to tea parties and ribbon-cutting ceremonies and yacht-launchings; but in Abdullah’s case, he actually runs the whole day-to-day government stuff too. While I couldn’t give two shakes of shit for his King title, I do give the guy some street credit for being Prime Minister, because that is a full-time job that has kept him busy… extremely busy given the divisive nature of the country’s population.
Without a doubt, one of his best achievements to date is keeping his country together during the last few years. See, what most don’t realize is that the Saudi populace has significant groups of both fundamentalists and reformists in it. The reformers want more political dialogue, more individual freedoms, and social reform for women’s rights and religious freedoms. These guys have tapped into Twitter and international human rights groups to try build pressure to get some of these long-standing issues changed. So they hate the Al-Sauds for being too conservative and controlling.
The hilarious part: the fundamentalists despise Abdullah and the government even more…for not being conservative enough! Ultra-conservative Islamic fundamentalist thought was one of the core components of the Sauds coming to power in the first place (go search Wahhabism for more detail), and these guys think that the Sauds are total corrupt sell-outs and puppets to Western powers. How so? Abdullah and his crew are extremely tight with the United States and European powers, and generally go along with US foreign policy lock, stock, and barrel. So much so that the Sauds allow US military bases on Saudi soil…which really, really, really pisses off the ultra-conservative folks who consider foreign dogs on their holy ground as utter blasphemy.
What a hornet’s nest of hate that the King has to keep a lid on. Keep in mind, Osama bin Laden’s original (and still active) mission was to purge the foreign powers out of his home state of Saudi Arabia. He and his al-Qaeda crew completely and utterly despise King Abdullah and the ruling elite, and have done everything they can to destroy the Saudi government. Oh, and keep in mind that most of the 9/11 attack squad was from Saudi Arabia too, as are many foreign fighters currently in Iraq and Afghanistan. You should also be aware that there have been dozens and dozens of terrorist attacks within Saudi Arabia itself in the last decade, targeting the Saudi government and Western business/military establishments. What a mess!
Why do the Wahhabists and al-Qaeda and others view King Abdullah as a corrupt Western stooge that should be thrown from power? Because of his next title: Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. Saudi Arabia is the historical birthplace and cultural epicenter of Islam, thus making it revered holy ground for Muslims…but especially holy and especially revered by the especially ultra-conservatives (read: nut-jobs). And they think the King is way too corrupt and way too Western to hold this most important post as the defender of Islam.
But here is where I will give Abdullah a thumbs-up: he has done a lot to open religious dialogue in his country and soften the image of Islam in the world. So much in fact, that back in 2008, he set up two different meetings for interfaith dialogues. What’s that you ask? Why it’s the blending, the discussion, and cooperative interaction of the major religions. The first, back in June of 2008 at Mecca, was to urge Muslims to get along with Christianity and Judaism. A month later in Spain, he hosted an open panel for all the religions. Oh! Did I mention he also held a conference in November of that same year called Peace of Culture? This brought Muslims and non-Muslims together to help smother the stereotypes of Islam being associated with terrorism. But he has done more than just peace-like stuff to stymie terrorist….
King Abdullah is definitely one of the hardest working dudes in the international ‘war against terrorism’….he has to be! Its most active war front is in his own country, against him! The King’s response to terrorism on Saudi soil has been a series of crackdowns including raids by security forces, arrests, torture, and public beheadings! Damn! You don’t want to anger Abdullah! Off with your head! Of course, his extremely aggressive campaign against terrorism has made Abdullah highly admired by the US, which perhaps further aggravates the conservatives and extremists even more. And it pisses off the reformers who decry the tactics as infringing on human rights. The dude can’t win. And he doesn’t have to, because he has all the power to do what he wants regardless of public opinion. He has political power, wealth power, and also military power….
Abdullah gets that from his last title: Commander of the Saudi National Guard. Basically, this is the King’s personal army, which is separate from the official Saudi Arabian Defense Force. The National Guard serves both as a defense force against external threats and as a security force against internal threats. Its duties include protecting the royal family, guarding against coups, protecting strategic facilities and resources, and protecting the Holy Places of Mecca and Medina. They have been trained and assisted by US military for years, and they are a serious fighting force, even further entrenching the US/Saudi relationship.
Why so much US influence? Okay, now it time to finish with the obvious stuff. I give him yet another title: Turner of the Holy Tap….of Petroleum. Would anybody even care about this guy or his country if it wasn’t the largest exporter of oil on planet earth? Doubtful. Okay, that’s perhaps too harsh…Saudi Arabia would still hold tremendous significance as the center of Islam, but it would not have as much international clout were it not for the black, bubblin’ crude….
Oil has provided Saudi Arabia with economic prosperity and a great deal of leverage in the international community. And that’s why you should know this Abdullah dude: as the leader of the world’s largest oil exporter and keeper of the world’s largest oil reserves, King Abdullah has a big impact on world affairs. Saudi Arabia is also the key player in all OPEC decisions too. OPEC is the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, and they effectively set the world price for oil…and the Suadis run the show. The US, the EU, the Chinese and the world in general want that oil tap to stay open, and thus everyone supports King Abdullah’s moves to keep his country in line and the oil flowing…he is crucial to the world economy, and everyone knows it. That’s why Saudi Arabia is now a member of the ever-important G-20, and they are the only country from the entire Middle East in the club.
So he is a huge ally of the US (he has met with every US President since Gerald Ford!), a fighter of and target of Islamic extremism, a great giver of charity (well, he does have billions), leader of his clan and of his state and of his personal military force. Wow. So he is beloved in the world…..er…..ummmm….not entirely.
Besides the aforementioned ultra-conservatives and reformers who hate him at home, King Abdullah is not necessarily looked upon as a model for Arab awesomeness across the Middle East. After all, he does wield absolute power at home in a non-democratic regime, and is grotesquely rich in a region that has a lot of really poor people in it. His country has done little to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinians, stand up to foreign intervention, or bring Arab unity to the region. Corruption and his close ties to the US do make him an easy target for ridicule by other folks in the region….notably Iran.
The Arab/Persian struggle for influence in the Middle East may soon be reaching a climax, with these countries neck and neck in the fight. Since Saudi Arabia is already good friends with the US, and Iran is already despised by the US, I think you can figure out why the US is so keen to maintain its strong relationship with the Saudis….and why King Abdullah has been arming the living shit out of his country. With the threat of Iran going nuclear and tipping the balance of power away from the Arabian peninsula, Abdullah has been a busy boy using tens of billions of petro-dollars to buy very modern, deadly weapons from America and others. Saudi Arabia is now the US’s top arms customer.
So the US loves his oil, his fight against terrorism, and his billions of dollars of arms purchases. Islamic extremists, terrorists, Arab dissenters, and Iran all hate him. Yep: that’s King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. The King is pretty popular among most Saudis, having overseen tremendous in-pouring of oil wealth, investing in his society, and trying to diversify the economy. G-20 and most foreign powers love him too, as he is crucial to keeping the oil flowing to the world. Think about how the world would radically change if a hard-core fundamentalist like bin Laden were to take over the Kingdom! Ouch! And he is in power for life, so you might as well know who the hell this cat is, as his actions impact your life no matter where you live. It’s good to be da’ King!
Plaidcasts Involving this Leader
- Saudi Shift to Salman #3: Potential Impacts Feb 4, 2015
- Saudi Shift to Salman #2: Salaam to King Salman Feb 4, 2015
- Saudi Shift to Salman #1: Adios King Abdullah Feb 4, 2015
- The GCC: the Arab Power Place to Be! Apr 1, 2012
- In other news…2.4.11 Feb 4, 2011
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