Saudi Arabia. Crown Prince Abdullah, who has in effect
ruled Saudi Arabia since 1995 when his half-brother King
Fahd suffered a brain haemorrhage, launched a peace plan for
the Middle East in February. In exchange for a return to the
1967 borders, Israel would be recognized. The Arab League
supported the plan at a meeting in Lebanon in late March. US
President George W. Bush discussed the plan when the Crown
Prince visited the United States in April.
Relations between Saudi Arabia and the United States were
at times strained. One factor was that 15 of the 19 people
designated for the September 11 terrorist attacks were
Saudi. A group linked to US Pentagon defense headquarters in
August questioned Saudi Arabia's reliability in the fight
against terrorism, which Saudi Arabia criticized.
Countryaah website, Saudi Arabia sent out conflicting signals about allowing
bases for a possible US-led attack on Iraq. In September,
Saudi Arabia was said to have agreed to this, provided that
the UN Security Council first gave the go-ahead. This was
believed to have contributed to Iraq allowing the UN to
resume its weapons inspections.
During the first six months of the year, trade exchanges
between the United States and Saudi Arabia decreased.
Reduced oil revenues hit hard on Saudi Arabia's economy and
in December Saudi Arabia's oil minister Ali Naimi tried to
persuade other members of the OPEC oil cartel to respect
In October, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) called
on Saudi Arabia to reduce government spending and impose
income taxes on both Saudi and foreign nationals.
Faisal's religious conviction caused him to completely
reject cooperation with the Soviet Union and anything that
tasted the tiniest bit of atheism, including Nasser's
socialist experiments in Egypt and the Baaht parties in
Syria and Iraq. On the other hand, doubts were cast about
the "natural" alliance with the United States, as it became
clear that US support for Israel grew steadily after the
6-day war in 1967. Faisal went so far as to say that his
biggest dream was to pray in the Mosque of Omar, in a
liberated Jerusalem. Another aspect was the rivalry with the
Shah of Iran, who had also been assigned a role as the
region's "police officer".
After the Arab-Israeli war in 1973, Faisal supported the
oil blockade that had been introduced against countries that
supported Israel - primarily the United States. The acute
shortage of fuels created the basis for OPEC countries to
quadruple oil prices in a matter of months, marking the
beginning of a new era for international relations. Faisal
was murdered on March 25, 1975, by a seemingly perplexed
nephew. He was succeeded to the throne by his brother
Khaled, who was almost totally handicapped by a rheumatoid
arthritis, which is why the responsibility for the
leadership of the country actually fell to his little
brother, Crown Prince Fahd ibn Abdul Aziz.
Oil revenues, which rose to the tune of $ 500 million
annually when Faisal came to power in 1964, were estimated
at nearly $ 30 billion - $ 30,000 million! - at his death.
That same year, Bank of America reported its $ 57,500
million in assets, while West Germany exported $ 90,000,
which underlines the extent to which Saudi power has been
exaggerated. You just have to compare with the truly
powerful nations! However, astronomical figures are
nonetheless taken into account that this is a third-world
country: oil revenues equal 3 times the national income of
Egypt, whose population is 8 times larger than Saudi Arabia.
In 1967, Saudi Arabia gained full control of Aramco. The
North American companies participating in Aramco - Exxon,
Socal, Texaco and Mobil Oil- gradually renounced their
involvement in favor of the state-owned company, Petromin.
Over all, new cities sprang up, like universities,
hospitals, highways and mosques, but even with these
numerous projects, it was nonetheless a fact that oil
revenues clearly exceeded what was consumed. Instead of
reducing oil extraction to a level of real income needs -
which would have prevented a fall in oil prices and the
growing weakening of OPEC countries - the fortunes of
Western banks accumulated. In this way, Saudi Arabia bonded
even more strongly to the western, industrialized world, and
at the same time created a plethora of "cheap money" which
banks irresponsibly provided in the Third World; something
that helped create the crisis of the external debt in
1984-85 as interest rates rose again.