Saudi Arabia: King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud

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Upon King Abdulaziz’s death Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud was crowned King of Saudi Arabia.  Before taking the throne, King Salman served as governor as Riyadh for forty-eight years.  He became crown prince in 2011 after his brother’s death, serving for one year before ascending the throne.  King Salman is the most powerful member of the Ibn Saud, an influential faction within the Saudi palace comprised of the sons and grandsons of King Abdulaziz and Princess Hassa al-Sudairi.  He is also an influential businessman, holding a large stake in one the Arab world’s most influential media conglomerates.  As governor, King Salman oversaw the transformation of Riyadh from a small desert town to one of Saudi Arabia’s most significant metropolitans. Today, Riyadh’s skyline is full of skyscrapers and its streets full of universities and Western chains.  Its transformation reflects King Salman’s moderate, modern-minded leanings.  Throughout his tenure as governor of Riyadh King Salman grew adept at courting foreign delegates, cultivating a positive international reputation. He also learned to balance the interests of Saudi Arabia’s conservative traditionalists and liberal technocrats.

As king, King Salman’s balancing skills are salient as he inherits the social and economic reform campaigns begun by his predecessor, King Abdulaziz.  King Salman was recorded saying that he believed democracy ill suited for Saudi Arabia and, cognizant of the delicate balancing act of politics in Saudi Arabia, promotes caution in implementing the reforms of King Abdulaziz.  King Salman is less concerned in enacting these reforms, then in pursuing pragmatic domestic policies that maintain Saudi Arabian stability.  Economically, King Salman has pursued the diversification of Saudi Arabia’s economy, traditionally reliant almost wholly on its deep oil reserves.  His moderate international repute has attracted foreign investment. King Salman has also pursued close relationships with Western powers, in particular the United States, the United Kingdom, and France. Under his reign, the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia has deepened past oil supply and demand.

Last year, King Salman sent Saudi Finance Minister Muhammad Al-Jadaan in his place for the G20 Summit in Hamburg. Although there was so reason issued as to why, many sources have attributed it to Saudi Arabia’s dispute with Qatar. As King Salman has pursued diversifying the economy, this will likely be a continued theme of Salman’s agenda, as well as maintaining close ties with Western powers, who have relied on the oil of Saudi Arabia.

“We will continue, God willing, to hold the straight course that this country has followed since its establishment by the late King Abdulaziz.” 

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