House of Saud / Al Saud
The House of Saud refers to the ruling power of Saudi Arabia. Today, that is King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz who holds absolute power over the political realm and all of its appointees. He was named Commander of the National Guard in 1963 and has been prominent in the government since that time.
There is a great deal of historical information that surrounds the early plight of the Al Saud, also known as the House of Saud. Their first intention was to acquire as much land and power as they could. In addition to Saudi Arabia, the House sought to dominate Iraq, Oman, Syria and Yemen. Battles for power and control were frequent, and at times, had far-reaching consequences.
The earlier King Abdullah was beheaded after being captured by the Ottoman-Egyptian Empire. With the capture and beheading of King Abdullah in Constantinople, the Egyptian armies took over Saudi Arabia's capital of Diriyyah in 1818. The beheading occurred shortly after the take-over. The effort of the House was then concentrated on re-capturing territories.
During the next historical period, the Saud family re-established its empire. The Saudis displayed less interest in land acquisition. The constant fighting from within was the downfall of this second historical period. The Egyptians once again, as before, became rulers of the lands that the Saud had sought to dominate.
The re-capture of the current capital city of Riyadh in 1902 marked the rise of the Al Saud once again. A few decades later, surveyors discovered vast oil fields near Dammam; and by 1937, the fate of the House of Saud had changed. Happenstance had created a situation whereby conquest had been rewarded with riches beyond comprehension.
An alliance with the United States was forged in 1945 that married oil wealth to the power of the world's mightiest country. This date was selected according to the Islamic lunar calendar. Since then the House of Saud has prospered mightily and its lineage has continued. King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz has ruled since 2005, following the death of his predecessor, King Fahd bin Abdul-Aziz.
With the discovery of oil, Saudi Arabia has gained much control over world economics. Globally, the Saudis are in a position of great power, as supply from Saudi Arabia is necessary to maintain current world operations and potential future production. Saudi Arabia is the dominant and marginal producer. The House of Saud controls so much oil it can virtually set the price anywhere it likes. They are so fabulously wealthy that they are envied throughout the Arab world.
The rule of the Saudis has been brutal at times. The House of Saud has seen fit to strike an uneasy alliance with the forces of Wahhabism, a fundamental form of Islam. By allowing and funding Wahhabism, the House of Saud has defused some of the envy and destabilization that might otherwise have toppled it.
Nonetheless, there is growing dissent in Saudi Arabia. The average citizen has not enjoyed much of the almost impossible wealth that the House of Saud itself has accrued. Saudi Arabia suffers from a lack of capital investment and employment opportunities are not what one might expect. The Wahhabism encouraged and supported by the House of Saud also dampens efforts at developing a more dynamic economy.
The House of Saud has cut itself a kind of devil's bargain. By agreeing to exchange oil only for dollars way back in 1971, the House of Saud created with America the first true, dominant reserve fiat currency. Everyone must hold dollars as a result of the decision of the House of Saud. If this arrangement is ever toppled, the House of Saud may topple as well.
More and more, the House of Saud is seen as an enforcer of American hegemony and as a proxy puppet for American power. This is an uncomfortable position for the House of Saud, a house that has seen its power wax and wane over the years. With unrest sweeping the Arab world as the global Internet Reformation takes root, it may be that the House of Saud becomes subject to the winds of change as well, despite the best efforts of its great protector.
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