Late Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz has been a key player in the political scene since the sixties. However, very little is known about him due to the nature of the Saudi quite politics and strict royal protocols.
Accordingly, a lot has been circulated about his magnanimity, generosity and nobility; but almost nothing is said about his political role. He has officially taken part in all Saudi political activities, for fifty years, since he was the defense minister until he became the Crown Prince. He played a key role in the negotiations over the settlement of all Saudi border disputes. He also proved very effective in managing different crises that faced the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, from Nasserist to Baathist and Khomeinist. He was commissioned by the successive Saudi leaderships to bolster ties and construct axes.
The name of Prince Sultan helped the late President Anwar Sadat when he wanted to untie Egypt’s relations with the Soviet Union, which was burdened by political, military and financial commitments. Prince Sultan was sent by King Faisel to help Sadat to exit from the Soviet camp. This was the effective step that enabled Sadat later to launch the 1973 war without the support of the Soviets or others, and was able to keep the war decision close to his chest.
Prince Sultan was commissioned with numerous and important roles during the foundation of the Gulf Cooperation Council, as well as settling its numerous disputes. He was part of resolving almost all the Arab issues that involved Saudi Arabia, such as ending the Lebanon war. Despite all such numerous roles, Prince Sultan’s name was hardly mentioned due to the reasons that I had mentioned at the beginning of this article.
The late prince was the right arm of the Saudi kings. He remained effective during the reigns of late kings Khaled and Fahad and definitely along the reign of King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz. Accordingly, he was known for being the country’s secret-keeper and its main political player. Despite all such important roles and long years of work, he never talked about them and he never took a step to endorse his leadership. He was known to be a model of discipline. In 1981, King Khaled visited Britain, accompanied by Prince Sultan. During the visit, Prince Sultan got angry by one of the royal protocols because they were late in informing him that the King had already made it to the motorcade. He was very disciplined Prince who was never late and was always walked behind his King. Though he hardly talked about his activities, Prince Sultan remained to be a key political player in Saudi Arabia for almost half a century. Saudi Arabia lost another wise elder politician leaving us with knowledge about the new generation of princes who we assume will lead the country sometime this decade.
The writer is the General Manager of Al Arabiya. The article was published in the London-based Asharq al-Awsat on Oct. 24, 2011 and was translated from Arabic by Abeer Tayel.