|Biographical detail : ||The monarch who saw the material transformation of his kingdom undermined by the oil price collapse and his own alliance with the west.
King Fahd of Saudi Arabia who succeeded to the throne after the death of his brother King Khalid, in 1982, maintained stability in his country despite many turmoil yet he was frustrating reluctant to deal with his country’s mounting social and economic problems.
Despite Fahd’s own reputation, bedouin-turned-billionaire, for being over-fond of luxury and soft living, he was regarded by many as the father of his kingdom’s modernisation. He was at the heart of the extraordinary process that transformed the kingdom from a largely bedouin and pastoral society into a financial giant, along with the technological and infrastructural development and a bastion of Middle East stability with a pivotal influence on the politics of the Gulf, and the Arab and Muslim worlds.
He initiated and followed through the country’s massive oil and gas-based industrialisation, and largely responsible for the development of a free, nationwide education system that ensured the education of Saudi girls for the first time.
King Fahd introduced limited constitutional reforms, the most striking being the setting up in 1993 of a Consultative Council – the Majlis as-Shura – as a first tentative step towards wider public participation in the country’s government.
It was the start of the oil-fuelled development boom, which brought unprecedented amounts of cash into the economy that led to corruption in comparatively small number of royal princes that he failed to stem. He did not like confrontation, and never seriously addressed the issue.
Fahd helped, as a founder-member of the Tripartite Arab Commission, to bring Lebanon’s civil war to an end by being host to a meeting of the warring factions that resulted in the signing of the 1989 Taif accord.
King Fahd spent billions – “lent” some $20bn to bolster war effort – supporting Iraq’s Saddam Hussein in his war against Iran, against a background of falling oil revenue. When Iraq’s invaded Saudi’s ally, Kuwait, in 1990, Fahd had to accept American help, to the dismay of his critics at home. The move was embarrassing and shocking for Fahd partly because of the financial support he had lavished on the Iraqi regime and partly because he was forced to invite the American and its allies to come to the aid of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
Despite deteriorating health, notably after Fahd’s second stroke in 1996, he maintained appearances according to the best traditions of an absolute monarch. He had the ability to keep his nerve in a crisis.
Fahd’s personal preoccupation throughout his reign was the rebuilding of the great mosques of Makkah and Madinah that he regarded as the most important achievement of his life.
He was born Fahd bin Abdul Aziz bin Saud, one of the sons of Ibn Saud, the founder of Saudi Arabia. In his young age he indulged in all sort of activities and is reportedly lost £6m at the gaming tables in Monte Carlo.