House of Saud
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The House of Saud (آل سعود translit: Āl Saʿūd) is the royal family of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The modern nation of Saudi Arabia was established in 1932, though the roots and influence for the House of Saud had been planted in the Arabian peninsula several centuries earlier. Prior to the era of the Kingdom's founder, Abdul-Aziz ibn Saud, the family had ruled the Nejd and had conflicted on several occsaions with the Ottoman Empire and the Rashidis in Makkah. The House of Saud has gone through three phases: the First Saudi State, the Second Saudi State, and the modern nation of Saudi Arabia.
The history of the Al Saud has been marked by a desire to unify the Arabian Peninsula and to spread what it promotes as a more purified and simple, though often criticized as less tolerant, view of Islam embodied by Wahhabism which has gained international controversy since the events of 9/11. The House of Saud is also linked with Wahhabism (Saudis deprecate the term, preferring Ikhwan or Salafi) through the marriage of the son of Muhammad ibn Saud with the daughter of Muhammad ibn Abd al Wahhab in 1744.
"The royal family today is made up of an estimated 25,000 members, of whom around 200 are princes wielding influence."  The current head of the Al Saud and ruler of Saudi Arabia is King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz. On 20 October 2006, he announced the creation of a committee of princes to vote on the viability of kings and the candidature of nominated crown princes. The committee, to be known as the Allegiance Commission, would include all the sons and some grandsons of the late King Abdul Aziz who would vote for one of three princes nominated by the king as Heir Apparents. In the event that if either the sitting king or the crown prince were deemed unfit to rule, a five-member transitory council would be empowered to run state affairs for a maximum of one week, before naming a successor. This system would, theoretically, prevent situations, as was the case with the late King Fahd, who after multiple strokes beginning in 1995, remained on the throne for 10 years, most of them without the faculties to rule.
 Politics & Money in the House of Saud
The Head of the House of Saud is the King of Saudi Arabia who serves as Head of State and monarch of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The King holds almost absolute political power. The King appoints ministers to his cabinet who supervise their respective ministries in his name. The key ministries of Defence, Interior, Municipal & Rural Affairs, and Foreign Affairs are reserved for the Al Saud though most portfolios, such as Finance, Information, Planning, Petroleum Affairs and Industry, have been given to commoners, who have been, periodically, cycled out of government. House of Saud family members also hold many of the Kingdom's critical military and governmental departmental posts.
Long term political and government appointments, such as those of King Abdullah, who has been Commander of the National Guard since 1963, Crown Prince Sultan, Minister of Defence & Aviation since 1962, Prince Mit'eb, Minister of Municipal & Rural Affairs since 1975, Prince Nayef who has been the Minister of Interior since 1975, and Prince Salman, who has been Governor of the Riyadh Region since 1962, have perpetuated the creation of fiefdoms where senior princes have, often, though not exclusively, co-mingled their personal wealth with that of their respective domains. They have often appointed their own sons to senior positions within their own fiefdom. Examples of these include Prince Mit'eb bin Abdullah as Assistant Commander in the National Guard, Prince Khalid bin Sultan as Assistant Minister of Defence, Prince Mansour bin Mit'eb as Assistant Minister for Municipal & Rurul Affairs and Prince Mohammed bin Nayef as Assistant Minister in the Interior Ministry. In cases, where portfilios have notably substantial budgets, appointments of younger, often full, brothers have been necessary, as deputies or vice ministers, ostensibly to share the wealth and the burdens of responsibility, of each fiefdom. Examples of these include Prince Abdel Rahman who is Vice Minister of Defence & Aviation under Prince Sultan, Prince Badr, Deputy (to King Abdullah in the National Guard, and Prince Ahmed, who holds the Deputy Minister's portfolio in Prince Nayef's Interior Ministry.
The sharing of family wealth has been a critical component in maintaining the semblance of a united front within the royal family. An essential part of family wealth is the Kingdom which is viewed, in its entirety, as a totally owned asset of the Al Saud. Whether through the co-mingling of personal & state funds from lucrative government positions, huge land allocations, direct allotments of crude oil to sell in the open market, segmental controls in the economy, special preferences for the award of major contracts, and astronomical monthly allowances, - all billed to the national exchequer - all told, the financial impact may have exceeded 25% of the Kingdom's annual budget during the reign of King Fahd. Over decades of oil revenue generated expansion, royal receipts estimates have varied, ranging as low as $50 billion and as high as over $1 trillion. Wealth sharing of this sort has allowed many of the senior princes & princesses to accumulate largely unauditable wealth and, in turn, pay out, in cash or kind, to lesser royals and commoners, and, thereby, gaining political munition through their own largesse. According to well publicized unsubstantiated reports, King Abdullah, has intentions to reduce this impact on the national economy by reigning in the extent of excesses.
Unlike Western royal families, the Saudi Monarchy has not had a clearly defined order of succession. Historically, upon becoming King, the monarch has designated an heir apparent to the throne who serves as Crown Prince of the Kingdom. Upon the King's death the Crown Prince becomes King, and during the King's incapacitation the Crown Prince likewise assumes power as regent. Though other members of the Al Saud hold political positions in the Saudi government, technically it is only the King and Crown Prince who legally constitute the political institutions.
Succession to the throne has been traditionally by consensus and though age remains an influential factor within the family, senior princes have been bypassed either by their own unwillingness or their inability to build the consensus necessary primarily from within the royal family, but also from the clergy and merchant community. The "Allegiance Commission," whose membership is restricted to the surviving sons and senior grandsons of the late King Abdul-Aziz, ushers in a public face to this well-tried tribal process.
Tribal traditions remain a critical influence in Saudi Arabia. Though nominally head of the Royal family, Kings Khalid and Fahd respected and often deferred family (with intricate links to broad government procedure and policy) matters to older brother, Mohammed bin Abdul Aziz (who had stepped aside from succession), during his lifetime. This tradition continues today with niether senior Prince Bander bin Abdul Aziz nor Prince Mishaal bin Abdul Aziz (both older than Crown Prince Sultan), holding any official role in government but both being key players in the Kingdom's political hierarchy. Sons of former kings Faisal, Khalid, Fahd, and, to a lesser extent, Saud, including those not in government, also maintain significant political & family influence, and are expected to participate on the "Allegiance Commission." Interestingly, in contradiction to widely held opinions, senior princesses also wield significant, albeit private, influence in royal family politics.
Sons of Abdul Aziz (Ibn Saud, the founder of the modern Saudi state) have been, thus far, the only eligible candidates allowed to serve as King or Crown Prince. With the aging of this pool (there is an estimated 22 surviving sons, the oldest being in their mid 80s and the youngest is in their 60s), a decree by the late King Fahd expanded the candidates to include the male progeny of King Abdul Aziz's sons. This decree has expanded the pool to over 150 eligibles, though consensus and competency will limit this number.
The Cadet line include the Al Kabir, the Bin Jiluwi, the Thunayan, the Sudairi and the Farhan, all of whom are branches of the Al Saud. Many of these hold senior government & military positions, or are in business. Intermarriage between branches is a common way of establishing alliances and reinforcing influence. Though the Cadet line are not in contention for the throne, there are those with the seniority to command respect and these often wield tremendous power.
 Opposition to the House of Saud
Due to its authoritarian and theocratic rule, the House of Saud has attracted much criticism during its rule of Saudi Arabia. Its opponents generally refer to the Saudi monarchy as totalitarians or dictators, both of which with negative inferences.
The Saudi monarchy has been a reliable ally of the United States for over five decades, although, since the events of 9/11, there has been, primarily through an anti-Saudi media blitz that has fueled US national opinion, a call to review this relationship. Additionally, as the world's largest producer of crude oil, Saudi Arabia often receives the brunt of the blame whenever gasoline prices fluctuate upwards. Recent huge oil and business ventures and contracts awarded to non-US firms have also raised the question of the Saudi commitment to the United States. Opponents of the regime often accused the US government of backing or "propping up" the "Saudi tyranny," but the House of Saud's consistent reliability to US administrations since FDR's presidency has been key to US influence in the region and amongst Muslim nations where the Saudis, as hosts of the Holy Cities of Makkah & Madinah and a donor of significance, garner respect and influence. Financially, the largest beneficiaries of the Kingdom's hydrocarbon fueled growth included US corporations such as Exxon-Mobil, Chevron, Bechtel, Fluor, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, JP Morgan Chase, Citicorp, Kraft and General Foods. The question remains whether Saudi internal policy, developed on the basis of the Salafi tradition, is the overwhelmingly blameable cause for the events of 9/11 and the growth of anti-americanism in the Muslim world. Polical stability in the Kingdom, and the subsequent unrestricted flow of crude oil, is an essential component to the international community's financial well-being. Internal strife & international doubts aside, the rulers in Riyadh have reliably offered this stability for decades.
"I just long for the day I wake up and find that the Saudi royal family are swinging from the lamp-posts and they've got a proper government that represents the people of Saudi Arabia." - Ken Livingstone  (William Hague, a British Conservative, later remarked in his News of the World column that he was glad to see that left-winger Livingstone had finally come to see the merits of the death penalty.)
 Heads of the House of Saud
- Muhammad bin Saud
- Abdul Aziz bin Muhammad bin Saud
- Saud bin Abdul Aziz bin Muhammad al Saud
- Abdullah bin Saud
- King Abdul Aziz bin Abdul Rahman al-Saud
- King Saud bin Abdul Aziz
- King Faisal bin Abdul Aziz
- King Khalid bin Abdul Aziz
- King Fahd bin Abdul Aziz
- King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz
 Most notable current members
SONS OF ABDUL AZIZ IBN SAUD
- Bandar bin Abdul Aziz (1923-) - Has never held a government post but considered close to King Abdullah. Reputed to be religious, and possibly a recluse.
- Mus'aid bin Abdul Aziz (1923-) - Older son, Khalid, was killed during a demonstration against the introduction of television in the kingdom in a shootout with police in the early 1960s. Younger son, Faisal, was King Faisal's assassin a decade later, for which he was beheaded. Mus'aid is reported to be an eccentric.
- Mishaal bin Abdul Aziz (1926-)- Former Minister of Defence and Governor of Makkah. Highly influential and close confidante of King Abdullah, Mishaal is one of the Kingdom's wealthiest royals with extensive interests in real estate and a wide range of business interests.
- Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz (1926-)
- Abdel Rahman bin Abdul Aziz (1931-) - Appointed Vice Minister of Defence on 1978 replacing younger brother, Turki, who was reportedly unfit for the position. Reputed to be extremely wealthy and, with full brother, Crown Prince Sultan's impaired health and waning desire for greater power, Abdel Rahman has reinforced his influence in the royal family as a senior & powerful member of the royal family's Sudairi faction.
- Mit'eb bin Abdul Aziz (1931-) - Long time Minister for Municipal & Rural Affairs, and former Governor of Makkah. His profile has increased due to long tenure in government, and his proximity to King Abdullah.
- Talal bin Abdul Aziz (1931-) - Has held the ministerial portfolios for Finance and Communications. Major businessman, special envoy to UNESCO and Chairman of AGFUND. May not be a contender for the throne for his leading role in the Free Princes movement of 1958 which sought government reform during the reign of King Saud. Father of Al-Waleed bin Talal.
- Badr bin Abdul Aziz (1933-) - Long time Deputy Commander of National Guard.
- Nawaaf bin Abdul Aziz (1933-) - Senior advisor of King Abdullah and, briefly, President of the General Intelligence Directorate. Has substantial business holdings.
- Nayef bin Abdul Aziz (1933-) - Powerful Minister of Interior who may not be as strong a contender for the throne as previously believed. Nayef's inability to muster the necessary consensus to attain the hitherto vacant Second Deputy Prime Minister's position, may portend his diminishing influence and strong objections from other royals.
- Turki bin Abdul Aziz (1934-) - Forced to resign as Deputy Minister of Defence in 1978.
- Fawwaz bin Abdul Aziz (1934-) - Was Governor of Makkah during uprising in 1979. Forced to resign by late King Khalid.
- Abdulilah bin Abdul Aziz (1935-) - Former regional Governor of Al Jouf Province. Removed and replaced by more competent nephew.
- Salman bin Abdul Aziz (1936-) - Powerful Governor of Riyadh Region. Is considered a mediator between differing Royal Family factions. Diminishing health and the death of his two oldest sons within a 12 month period has, reportedly, dampened a desire for the throne.
- Ahmed bin Abdul Aziz (1940-) - Vice Minister of Interior. He has remained in the shadows to brother,Prince Nayef's higher profile, though Ahmed may be the stronger candidate for succession.
- Mamdouh bin Abdul Aziz (1940-) - Former Governor of Tabuk region who was removed from the post by King Fahd for insubordiantion. Later Director of Saudi Center of Strategic Studies.
- Abdul Majid bin Abdul Aziz (1940-) - Highly competent Governor of Madinah. Reputed to be close to King Abdullah.
- Sattam bin Abdul Aziz (1943-) - Competent Vice Governor of Riyadh region.
- Muqran bin Abdul Aziz (1945-) - President of the General Intelligence Directorate. Former Governor for Hail & Madinah regions.
GRANDSONS OF ABDUL AZIZ IBN SAUD
- Abdullah al Faisal (1921-)- Former Minister of Health and Interior. Has extensive business interests.
- Muhammed bin Saud (1934-) - Governor of Baha region
- Khalid al Faisal (1941-) - Well regarded Governor of Asir region.
- Saud al Faisal (1941-) - Long serving Foreign Minister and reputedly very close to King Abdullah. May have stepped aside as a succession candidate due to health concerns but is highly respected both inside the kingdom and internationally.
- Mit'eb bin Abdullah (1943-) Competent Assistant Deputy Commander of the National Guard & son of King Abdullah.
- Faysal bin Bandar(1943-)- Governor of Qasim province.
- Turki al Faisal (1945-)- Adept Ambassador to Washington D.C. Has received intense western media criticisms, many of them misguided, for allegedly, mishandling the growth of Al Qaeda during his long tenure as the well regarded President of the General Intelligence Directorate. Has reportedly close ties with international intelligence community.
- Saud bin Abdul Mohsin (1947-)- Low profiled well regarded Governor of Hail province. Father was late Prince Abdul Mohsin bin Abdul Aziz (1925-1985), much loved and repected Governor of Madinah.
- Khalid bin Sultan (1949-)- Assistant Minister of Defence. Led Saudi military forces during first Gulf War. Considered both competent and arrogant but accumulation of extensive assets and wealth through his positions in government may hinder political future.
- Muhammed bin Fahd (1950-)- Competent Governor of the Eastern Province and son of late King Fahd. His vast business interests may be a negative factor for future roles.
- Bandar bin Sultan (1950-)- Long serving Ambassador to Washington D.C. and considered among the City's most powerful powerbokers maintaining close relations with the Bush Family and others across the political spectrum. He has also, reputedly. used his position to accumulate great wealth which, in addition to the lack of public popularity, may deter family consensus supporting significant future roles. King Abdullah, whose support he enjoys, appointed Bandar Secretary-General of the newly created National Security Council in October of 2005.
- Al Waleed bin Talal (1955-) - Has gained stature as a world class investor and is consistently ranked among Forbes magazine's wealthiest. Source of wealth may include private investments from other royals.
- Mohammed bin Nawaaf (??) - Saudi Ambassador to London. Gained kudos as competent former Ambassador to Italy. His growing prominence is closely connected to King Abdullah's trust & confidence with his father (Prince Nawaaf].
- Mohammed bin Nayef - Assistant Minister for Security Affairs in the Interior Ministry. He has taken over many of his father's (Prince Nayef's) duties including the day to day operations against Al Qaeda.
- Sultan bin Salman (1956-) - Former astronaut and Secretary General of Commission for Tourism.
- Abdulaziz bin Fahd (1973-)- Youngest, and reputedly, favorite son of late King Fahd. Minister of State, Cabinet Member and Chief of Court of Cabinet's Presidency. His power & political potential has greatly diminished since his father's death in August of 2005 - his finances remain controversial and substantial.
 See also
- David Holden & Richard Johns, The House of Saud, Pan, 1982, 0-330-26834-1
- Madawi Al-Rasheed, A History of Saudi Arabia, Cambridge University Press, 2002, ISBN 0521644127
 External links
- A Chronology: The House of Saud | PBS
- The House of Saud - A View of the Modern Saudi Dynasty: A Royal Family Tree | PBS
- A PDF file showing the structure of the House from globalsecurity.org (requires Adobe Acrobat)
- Saudi Royal Family Directory > Family Treear:آل سعود