Who was King Abdullah, the billionaire who wanted to reform Saudi Arabia?

Died this Friday with more than 90, the reign of Abdalá contrasts with that of his predecessors for having embarked on the path of reforms in one of the most conservative societies in the world. Although, like his fellow kings of the Sunni world, he strongly opposed the wave of protests of the Arab Spring.

Also prominent at the international level, his priority was to counteract the influence of the other great regional power, Iran, in a “cold war” that has a bloody battlefield in Syria. While maintaining the close alliance with the United States, he also led tensions with Washington, especially as regards the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

No date of birth
It was the thirteenth of the 37 children of his father, the founder of modern Saudi Arabia and who gave the country his family name. And upon his death, he leaves more than 30 children of around twelve wives. The deceased king maintained a high profile in international politics.

Educated in traditional values ​​of Islam, he was, however, to some extent had as a reformer and came to advocate for peace in the Middle East. His mother, Fahda, the eighth of the 16 wives her father had, was of Bedouin descent and that is why Abdullah spent long periods of his childhood living in the traditional desert style.

In a very strict household, the young prince followed the family tradition and studied religion, literature and science. His half brother Faisal was appointed prime minister in 1958 after another half brother, Saud, who had assumed the throne in 1953, was persuaded to relinquish control over the government. In 1962, Faisal appointed Abdalá commander of the National Guard, the body responsible for the security of the royal family and traditionally headed by a member of royalty.

Under his command, the guard increased its size and acquired the most modern equipment.

King Faisal was assassinated in March 1975 and his successor and brother, King Khalid, kept Abdullah at his post in the National Guard and made him second vice prime minister. In the late 1970s, his international profile grew when he became a vocal critic of US policies in the Middle East and a supporter of pan-Arab unity.

Abdullah believed that only with solidarity among the Arab countries could the Arab oil wealth be converted into a formidable weapon to counteract the power of the West. In 1980, Abdullah led efforts to prevent war between Jordan and Syria, which triggered his position both in his country and in external diplomatic circles.

Gulf War
With the death of King Khalid, in 1982, King Fahd was appointed new monarch and Abdullah became heir and deputy prime minister. At the time, it was said that his appointment was opposed by the seven brothers of the king, but Abdalá managed to successfully overcome the minefield of relations in the house of Saud to ensure his position. Abudla spoke out against violence in the Middle East when he declared: “We reject acts of terrorism that are designed to undermine the stability of the Gulf region.”

In 1991, after Iraq invaded Kuwait, Abdullah was reluctant to support the installation of US troops in Saudi Arabia, preferring to negotiate with Saddam Hussein, but that option was rejected by King Fahd. Abdullah maintained his country’s alliance with the United States. As crown prince, he was a constant support for the Palestinians although his personal relationship with Yasser Arafat was tense. He did not hesitate to criticize the actions of the Palestinian leaders, and came to ask for restraint after a series of clashes with Israel in the Gaza Strip.

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