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King Khalid ibn Abd al Aziz Al Saud

King Khalid was the fourth King of Saudi Arabia, reigning from 1975 to 1982. Khalid succeeded to the throne on the death of King Faisal. Faisal's rule ended abruptly in 1975 when he was assassinated by one of his nephews. A meeting of senior Al Saud princes, the sons and surviving brothers of Abd al Aziz, acclaimed Crown Prince Khalid the new king. Because some of Khalid's brothers, who would have been next in line of succession according to age, renounced their right to the throne, the king and the princes designated a younger brother, Fahd (born 1921), crown prince. Fahd, who had already participated in major decisions, became chief spokesman for the kingdom and a major architect of Saudi modernization, foreign affairs, and oil policy. Khalid's leadership style was remarkably different from Faisal's. He was more liberal in terms of informing the press of the rationale behind foreign policy decisions.

Khalid who, like his father was most at home in the desert, assumed his new responsibilities with dignity. He already had considerable experience of government, having served as Governor of the Hijaz from 1932 to 1934 and as Minister of the Interior (appointed 1934). As King, and with Fahd at his side as First Deputy Premier, Khalid achieved much in both domestic and foreign policy, despite a heart condition which would have deterred a less committed individual from such strenuous and stressful activity. Not long after his accession, Khalid launched the second Five Year Plan which set in train much of the infrastructural development on which the future health and prosperity of the Kingdom was to depend. He involved himself in the intractable Lebanese civil war; he convened the historic summit of Arab nations in Taif and the Holy City of Makkah in 1981; and he inaugurated the Gulf Co-operation Council in the same year.

Khalid's leadership style was remarkably different from Faisal's. He was more liberal in terms of informing the press of the rationale behind foreign policy decisions. And although he largely used the same policymaking team as Faisal did, he allowed them greater latitude in decisionmaking within their separate portfolios. In regional affairs he permitted the governors considerably more autonomy and even authorized their use of discretionary funds. Above all, he valued consensus and the team approach to problem solving.

The new king's first diplomatic coup was the conclusion in April 1975 of a demarcation agreement concerning the Al Buraymi Oasis, where the frontiers of Abu Dhabi, Oman, and Saudi Arabia meet. Claims and counterclaims over this frontier area had exacerbated relations among the three states for years. The successful conclusion of negotiations under Khalid's aegis added to his stature as a statesman among knowledgeable observers of the peninsula political scene.

In April 1976, Khalid made state visits to all the gulf states in the hope of promoting closer relations with his peninsular neighbors. These early visits, in retrospect, probably laid the foundation for the later establishment of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Coinciding with Khalid's visits to neighboring states, Iran called for a formal, collective security arrangement of the shaykhdoms of the Persian Gulf. This proposal, although not summarily rejected, was received with great coolness by the Saudi government, as wary of Iran's hegemonistic pretensions as they were of Iraq's.

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Page last modified: 09-07-2011 02:39:51 ZULU