Saudi Arabia History

Saudi Arabia History

The original nucleus of the state is the Wahhabi emirate of Neged, in central Arabia. Hence its ruler Ibn Sa‛ūd moved in 1924-25 to conquer the Hegiaz, where he replaced the Hashimite dynasty of Mecca. The new Saudi dominion, which from 1932 took its current name, aimed at expansion also with arms (war of 1934 against Yemen for Naǵrān and Asir), but above all at internal organization, with exploitation, by means of of American capital and technicians, of the oil fields discovered in the Neged. In 1945 the kingdom joined the United Nations and the Arab League. On the death of Ibn Sa‛ūd (1953), the new ruler, Sa‛ūd, continued the policy of strengthening the administration, entrusting his brother, the Crown Prince Faiṣal, with the functions of prime minister and foreign minister in a regular government. In 1958, alarmed by the confused management of Sa‛ūd, the members of the royal family and the ‘ulamā’ invested Faiṣal with full powers in the direction of internal and foreign affairs. After the crisis, in 1960 Sa‛ūd resumed his prerogatives, but in 1962 he had to appoint his brother again as prime minister and foreign minister.

According to localcollegeexplorer, the conflict between the two brothers was resolved in November 1964 with the deposition, due to incapacity, of Sa‛ūd and the assumption to the throne of Faiṣal. In the internal field, Faiṣal continued the work of constant modernization, in the search for alternative sources of income to those of oil. In foreign policy, his action aimed at the affirmation of Islamic and Arab solidarity, open to collaboration with the West, and to the security of the Kingdom, with interventions in neighboring countries against movements considered subversive (in particular in Yemen in support of the realists, with consequent crisis with Egypt resolved only in 1970). Emphasizing the commitment for the liberation of the holy places of Jerusalem fallen into Israeli hands, in 1973 Faiṣal decided to embargo oil supplies to the West and support the Palestinian resistance and the Arab states engaged in the conflict with Israel. However, Saudi politics continued to be characterized by realism and prudence and on the international level it continued to operate in substantial agreement with the USA and with the more conservative Arab regimes. Attempts at revolt, stifled in the bud, in June and September 1969 had revealed the existence of an opposition.

On March 25, 1975 Faiṣal was killed, but the situation was controlled by his successor, his brother Khāled. With the second five-year plan (1976-80) he started a process of diversified industrialization, with heavy investments in social services and education, while in 1977 the nationalization of oil extraction was completed. In foreign policy, Khāled carried out a broad diplomatic action between Egypt, Syria, Jordan and the PLO, with the aim of resolving both the Palestinian and the Lebanese problems, thus removing the possibility of a diplomatic intervention by the USSR in the region. Similar concern to the Saudi Arabia showed about the Soviet presence in the area of ​​the Horn of Africa (Ethiopia and Somalia) and in the Red Sea. In 1978 he opposed the separate peace negotiations between Egypt and Israel, due to the failure to resolve the Palestinian problem, even though he did not adhere to the alignment of Arab countries in favor of economic sanctions against Egypt. This latter position changed in the course of 1979, in parallel with the attempt to implement a policy of greater autonomy from the USA. After having provided for a vast rearmament plan, the Saudi Arabia he adopted diplomatic initiatives towards the USSR and in 1981 he created, with Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar, the Council for Cooperation in the Gulf, with functions of economic, political and military collaboration. On the occasion of the Iraq-Iran conflict (1980-88) to. supported the former with financial and military aid.

Having become king after the death of Khāled (1982), Faḥd launched the fourth five-year plan (1985-90), aimed at tackling the decline in oil revenues. Following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait (1990), the Saudi Arabia sided with the US-led multinational anti-Iraq coalition and took part in the war operations. The First Gulf War (1990-91), with the settlement in the country of foreign, non-Muslim armies, represented an element of profound crisis for Saudi society. In December 1993, precisely to respond to the expectations of change matured in the most liberal and secularized sectors of public opinion, an advisory council was created made up of 60 members appointed by the director (brought to 90 in July 1997), which supported King Faḥd at the helm of the country. At the same time, an increasingly repressive policy was implemented, also to control the spread of fundamentalism.more radical ‘ulamā’ a Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs was established in October 1994, with competences in the educational and religious fields.

In the following years, however, the fundamentalist opposition continued to grow, giving birth to some terrorist organizations. Internationally, relations with Iran improved during the 1990s. Saudi Arabia supported the Palestinian leader Y. ‛Arafāt and in April 1995 it was the first country to recognize passports issued by the Palestinian Authority in the occupied territories. On the other hand, relations with the other countries of the Arabian peninsula remained conflicting, and in particular with Yemen, due to the invasion by the Saudi Arabia of the disputed island of Huraym in the Red Sea. In the autumn of 2001, when the USA intervened against Afghanistan, the Saudi Arabia did not allow the use of its air bases. This choice was renewed in 2002, when the Saudi foreign minister announced that the country’s military bases would not be used for any attacks on Iraq. In 2003 the American government made public its intention to withdraw almost entirely its troops stationed in Saudi Arabia, but both governments confirmed their mutual alliance and common commitment against terrorism, previously denounced by Faḥd, immediately after the attack on the Twin Towers, as a crime prohibited by Islam. The country then became the object of repeated terrorist attacks, which hit residential complexes and oil plants. Meanwhile, the Saudi authorities had to face internal and international pressure to introduce democratic reforms. The monarchy responded by granting more powers to the Advisory Council, which could have proposed new laws of its own accord. A few months earlier (May 2002) a new penal code had banned torture and introduced more rights for suspects. The reforms had a significant outcome in the first administrative elections of February-April 2005, from which, however, women were excluded (for whom an identity card was not even provided for until 2001). In August 2005, following the death of King Faḥd, his half-brother Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz al Saud, regent since 1995, when Faḥd suffered a stroke, took the throne. In November 2005, after many years of negotiations, the Saudi Arabia was admitted to the WTO.

Abdullah’s reign was characterized by the country’s openness to intercultural dialogue and by a balancing function of the tensions that Arab countries have crossed over the last decade: the first sovereign to meet the pope in 2007, in the context of the conflicts that arose in 2011 in the so-called Arab Spring he played a mediating role by working to avoid the spread of the revolt, and in 2012 he was the inspiration for a peace plan between Israel and Palestine supported by the Arab League. Abdullah has also been involved in strengthening relations with the United States and, on the home front, has led the country towards profound changes by revising the dynastic rules, allowing women to vote and be elected in the municipal consultations scheduled for 2015 and, in 2013, allowing them access to the consultative Parliament. Upon his death in January 2015, his half-brother, Salman Bin ‛Abd al-‘Azīz, appointed to take over from him in 2012, took the throne.

In December 2015, for the first time in the history of the country (which was the last in the world to open its electoral system to female voting), women were able to express their preferences in municipal elections, and eighteen of them were elected in municipal councils.

Saudi Arabia History