Saudi Arabia Recent History
Saudi Arabia is a fairly recent kingdom of institution, despite being the cradle and center of diffusion of one of the largest religious and political movements in history: Islamism, the religion founded by Muhammad.
The ancients barely knew of its existence. It remained outside the borders of the Roman empire and for several centuries it continued to be inhabited by nomadic tribes, completely independent of each other.
Only in Mecca and Medina, two cities in the interior, two small states had formed, somewhat similar to the city-states of ancient Greece.
According to Abbreviationfinder, the only states that had contact with the Arabian Peninsula were Ethiopia and Persia, which tried for several years to subdue the populations, but without success. It represented an arduous task to manage populations that, without any state base, were in continuous migration, even towards the desert. This lack of organization helped the country to remain independent.
This was the situation when the prophet Muhammad was born in the year 570 after Christ in Mecca. His religion and his preaching were immediately adapted to the qualities of his people. The exaltation of cruelty, the war capacity of guerrilla and robbery, ended up strengthening all these qualities, positive for them, so much so that they became an unstoppable force that made many states of the world tremble.
Muhammad preached that Islamism should be by any means widespread in the world; he promised glory to those who died fighting and ensured heaven, full of earthly goods, for those who killed so many “infidels”, who were Christians. And his people have since worked to make this happen. With these principles, Muhammad had managed, however, to unite all Muslim states spiritually. And Mecca looked more and more like an oil stain that was spreading on Earth every day.
After some time the Arab caliphs moved their residences to two cities better connected by roads and were therefore first in Damascus, Syria, then in Baghdad, in Mesopotamia. The Arab peninsula gradually lost its political importance, but remained the religious center of the entire Muslim world. Mecca and Medina became holy cities and, through the Arabian Peninsula, all those who went on pilgrimage to the two cities passed. They also became important centers of Islamic studies; Universities were built there where Muslim theology and the Koran were studied. Arab art also had its schools in these universities.
Beyond these two cities, moreover very well organized, chaos reigned in the other territories of the peninsula and the first religious heresies arose, which however were only an alibi to be able to create independent statues. Gradually the spiritual unity of populations dissolved; the tribes returned and more and more fighting with each other.
In 1492 the Arabs were driven out of Spain, the Islamic power began to falter and the Arabian peninsula returned to the state preceding the coming of Muhammad. And foreign dominations also came. The first to arrive were the Mamelukes, an ancient Turkish-Egyptian militia made up of slaves enrolled in the Caucasus and Circassia. The Turks entered after them.
In the meantime, some European powers began to take an interest in Arabia, located on the Via delle Indie. And first the Portuguese and then the British established colonies there and entered into commercial relations. Many commercial pacts were made between the local leaders and the British in the eighteenth century and the British, in the following century, helped the Arabs to drive out the Turks. One of the major architects of their liberation from Turkish rule was the Wahabite sect; they preached a return to strict observance of Mohammedan preaching. During the First World War the Wahabites led the revolt against the Turks and forced them to leave the peninsula. Arab forces were commanded by an English colonel, Lawrence, and this was a clear indication of how important it was for Britain to establish an independent state on the Arabian Peninsula. Certainly the main English interest was for the oil basins existing on the territory.
But as soon as the world war ended, one of the leaders of internal Arabia began a process of national independence tending to eliminate the strong British influences in the country. Ibn Saud, sultan of the Neged, on August 21, 1922 ended the subjugation of the Emirate of Gebel Sciammar. On May 5 he had already concluded a treaty on the borders of Iraq for the definition of the neutral territory of Ali Tawal and on July 22 he had extended the dominion over En Giuba, occupying El Giuf. On January 8, 1926 he completed the conquest of Hegiaz. On August 18 of the same year, following clashes on the Nagiran border, he entered into a treaty on the borders with Yemen; on October 21 subdued the Asir. The state on September 18, 1932 was called “Saudi Arabia”, under the government of the Saud family.
On April 3, 1936, Saudi Arabia signed a treaty of Arab alliance and brotherhood, as well as Muslim friendship with Iraq. On May 7, he concluded a treaty of friendship with Egypt. Subsequently, Arabia did not share UK policy in Palestine and attended anti-British conferences. In 1946 he negotiated the planned railway from the oil distributor of Hiyad (in central Arabia) to Cape Tanura (in the Persian Gulf) with American companies. A new transarabic oil pipeline entered service in December 1950, 750 miles long, with the crossing of Hashemite Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.
The Saudi state represented a perfect model of fusion between the most rigorous Islamic religious traditions and the technique of the western economy.
After the death of King Ibn Saud on 9 November 1953, after about half a century of reign, power passed into the hands of the firstborn Sa’Ud. These, however, far from being as skilled as the prestigious father, he soon found himself facing great difficulties and in 1958 he preferred to delegate most of the tasks to his brother Faisal.
A profound transformation of the peninsula was already underway since the time of the old king Ibn Saud who had tried in every way to limit nomadism in favor of craftsmanship and the extension of education.
And this was being done thanks to the presence of a powerful American oil organization, ARAMCO, because in fact Arabia is still the country with the most conspicuous exploitation of oil resources in the whole Middle East.
In 1960 Faisal renounced the powers delegated to him by his brother Sa’Ud, but then returned to his decisions and between 1962 and 1963 summed them up. Then in November 1964 Sa’Ud was deposed (died in 1969 in Athens) and Faisal was recognized king.
In 1969 there were a couple of coup attempts to prove that there was some opposition.
Faisal gave extensive development to agriculture, industrialization, communications and education.
He made use of the work and expertise of foreign technicians and tried to create other sources in the country that would ensure progress beyond direct revenues from the oil field.
In foreign policy Faisal was very active; he sought agreements with the West while jealously preserving the traditions within his kingdom. He was very careful to deal with all the subversive movements taking place in neighboring countries, such as in Yemen.
He also worked very hard for Islamic solidarity by condemning the fire that started at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa ‘mosque in Rabat at the August 1969 conference. This was probably the spark that ignited his feelings even more as he helped the Muslims in every way to free their holy places from the Israeli occupation. Just towards Israel he applied the oil embargo in 1973, after long previous threats. He collaborated with all Arab states in the Palestinian resistance.
But on March 25, 1975 Faisal was killed, by his nephew, and was succeeded by his brother Khaled.
For the Palestinian question, Crown Prince Fahd drew up a plan which involved the formation of a Palestinian state and the recognition of an Israeli one. This plan was discussed in Fez in November 1981 but no final decisions were made. In June 1982 King Khaled died and Fahd came to the throne and the plan was adopted with him in September 1982, while the Israelis besieged Beirut.
Then he supported Iraq against Iran; he signed a contract with the United States for the procurement of ultra-modern AWACS radar planes and promoted various diplomatic initiatives towards the Soviet Union even without sharing his behavior in Afghanistan.
Various changes to the Ministry of Industry and Health entered the economic policy plan and on October 29, 1986, Sheikh Z-al-Yamani, Minister of Oil, was replaced by I. al-Nasir.
The fourth five-year plan 1985/90 also took charge of strengthening armaments, given Israel’s progress and given the persistence of Iraq-Iran hostilities.
$ 25 billion of ballistic missiles were also bought from China. All this also to face in 1987 renewed destabilization movements operated by some Iranian pilgrims in Mecca.
In July 1987, Saudi Arabia was delighted to be able to mediate the solution to that conflict after UN resolutions.
In August 1988 Saudi Arabia resumed the Palestinian question by trying to speed up the appointment of the state. Then in August 1990, Iraq implemented the occupation of Kuwait. Then Saudi Arabia, fearing for an agreement against Iraq, Yemen and Jordan, strengthened the agreement with the United States and in 1991 took an active part in the Gulf War.
From this war Saudi Arabia came out economically impoverished, politically weakened by the manifest inability of the leaders and socially depressed because it was evident that traditional moderate Arabism could not play the leading role in the country.
However, at the end of the war, on the proposal of the United States, a western military presence remained permanently in the Gulf.
The Saudi government proved totally inadequate in the military field but was contested above all for the presence on the territory of foreign armies.
Between 1991 and 1992 there were two petitions: one by businessmen, writers and journalists who asked for the creation of an Advisory Council, the equality of all men before the law, a marked improvement in the conditions of women and total freedom of expression. The other, however, asked for the total change of the regime.
King Fahd granted the Advisory Council, in December 1993, initially made up of 60 members (increased to 90 in 1997); rearranged the provincial administrations; restored rigid censorship; stopped the first attempts at female emancipation.
In October 1994 he approved the creation of a Ministry for Islamic Affairs. At the same time, he applied highly repressive measures, with an increase in executions, especially for foreign drug traffickers. For this reason, many international organizations raised the voice of protest but the result was that the Islamic opposition, instead of decreasing, strengthened and sometimes resulted in terrorist actions. And for these in 1995 seven civilians died, including 5 Americans, and in 1996 the victims were 19 American soldiers.
After the Gulf War, after 50 years of interruption, diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union and then with Iran were restored.
King Fahd also propitiated the détente between Israel and the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) and to this end in January 1994 he met with Arafat in Riyadh. Another meeting then took place in Mecca in January 1995 and then again, in April of the same year, the Saudi state was the first to recognize the validity of passports issued by the Palestinian authorities in the occupied territories.
Border disputes continued with Yemen, which sometimes led to armed clashes at the border. In 1996 land and sea border limits were finally established, but Saudi Arabia continued to block immigration for Yemeni workers.
A rapprochement with Iraq, and with other Arab countries with which he was not in too good relations, occurred in 1998 when the United Nations decreed control over Iraqi disarmament and Saudi Arabia denied the installation of bases from which attacks could start military against Baghdad.