Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)
It was not an easy task to hold one of the most demanding positions in one of the most strategically important and influential countries of the world for four long decades. Prince Saud Al-Faisal, as one of the longest-serving foreign ministers of the world, saw the shaping and reshaping of the world. He was not just an individual but also an institution in his own right. At a very early stage of his life, Prince Saud Al-Faisal proved his mettle in the field of politics and diplomacy. The time he entered the world of politics, he displayed qualities of a top-notch politician. Born in the city of tranquility, Taif, in 1940, he was the second son of late King Faisal. His mother’s name was Iffat Al-Thunaian. He received education from schools in the United States in the mid 1960s along with his other brothers. They all were well respected by others because of their modest lifestyles and their diligence at school. During his student life, his father late King Faisal was successfully and effectively serving as the foreign minister of the Kingdom. After graduating from Princeton University, his was assigned the task of an economic consultant at the petroleum ministry, which was and still is, at the heart of politics not only in Saudi Arabia but also in the whole world. In 1975, Prince Saud became the Kingdom’s foreign minister. From day one, it became evident that he had all the qualities required for such an important position. His talent was God-gifted. As a matter of fact, many analysts believe that Prince Saud was much ahead of his time. Despite the demanding nature of his job as the foreign minister, he always remained at the forefront of various social projects in the Kingdom. He was actively involved in philanthropy as a founding member of the King Faisal Foundation and on the board of directors of the Al Faisal University and an active member of the Society for Disabled Children. As time passed, he became one of the most well-known political figures in the world. In his four decades as the foreign minister, the world in general and particularly the Middle East encountered various devastating crises. There were several major clashes between the Palestinians and the Israelis, a civil war broke out in Lebanon, the former Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, the Iraq-Iran War, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and last but not the least the start of the so-called Arab spring. The so-called Arab Spring is perhaps the most devastating crisis of all times due to its impact on the region and rest of the world. Prince Saud effectively dealt with all the issues, which had a direct bearing on the region, particularly Saudi Arabia. It was one of the most challenging jobs one could wish for, but Prince Saud always remained unfazed by the tumultuous situations. He had the huge responsibility of protecting not only the interests of his own country but also to ensure that the interests of the Arab world were not threatened by any global or regional development. Known for being the longest-serving foreign minister, Prince Saud had recently stepped down from his position due to his deteriorating health. And today, we are mourning him. People all over Saudi Arabia are in a state of shock. He was loved and respected by Saudis and non-Saudis alike. His role as the defender of the rights of the Arab world and particularly the role he played for the Palestinian cause earned him a unique and respectable position among the peace-loving people across the globe. He had a very unique character and a genuine sense of humor. His dealings with the press always remained transparent. He had a charismatic personality, which pulled people toward him. It was a kind of magnetism in him that people used to become his admirers in the first meeting with him. He commanded great respect for his wisdom across the world. Prince Saud was highly educated and had held many important positions that helped him gain great experiences in many fields. His degree in economics became very handy when he worked in different roles in the petroleum sector. He spoke many languages and was known for his love for different sports. The position of a foreign minister in Saudi Arabia is a unique position. Saudi Arabia is a key political player in the international arena and many countries and its politicians value the input from the Saudis. This is why the Saudi foreign minister is looked at as a major player in any political crisis that arises in the area. Now Prince Saud is no more but his legacy will long be remembered. On this occasion, I wish to offer my condolences to all Saudis who are teary-eyed over the demise of the great son of the Kingdom, who worked hard to make our lives better. Written by Abdulateef Al-Mulhim. An Unforgettable Leader reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al-Mulhim.