Ibn Saud

Ibn Saud
(1880–1953)
   Abd al-Aziz ibn Saud, commonly known as Ibn Saud, united most of the Arabian Peninsula through decades of astute political maneuvers and military campaigns, resulting in the foundation of the modern Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The Al-Saud family had long been leaders in the north-central Najd region of Arabia. In the late nineteenth century, the Al-Sauds were exiled to Kuwait as a result of a power struggle with the rival Al-Rashid clan. In 1902, however, a young Ibn Saud led 40 loyalists of the puritanical Wahhabi sect of Islam in wresting control of Riyadh away from the Al-Rashids, a first step in the eventual reestablishment of Al-Saud control of the Najd. Throughout the hostilities the Al-Rashids had nominal Ottoman support, but the Turks did not trust their ambitions and never sufficiently supported them militarily against Ibn Saud. Ibn Saud staved off Ottoman intervention through a constant stream of correspondence to Istanbul feigning loyalty to the sultan. He also conducted a guerilla campaign against Turkish interests to discourage aid to Al-Rashid and sought assistance from the British in the event the Turks did intercede more forcefully. By 1916, Ibn Saud had gained British recognition of his control of the Najd and Al-Hasa as well as a promise of protection if attacked. Within a decade, he had taken the southern portions of modern Saudi Arabia and expanded throughout the remaining Al-Rashid controlled northern regions. In 1925, he made a move on the religiously important Hijaz province, decisively beating Hashemite King Hussein ibn Ali and taking control of Mecca and Medina. In doing so, he had completed his consolidation of nearly all of Arabia and became the king of the Najd and king of the Hijaz. In 1932, the formation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was officially declared and recognized internationally. Soon after, Ibn Saud began to tap Arabia’s petroleum wealth, inviting American oil companies to the country to develop the industry. Much of the country’s future oil wealth went to the Al-Saud family; however, Ibn Saud lived a relatively austere life and used some funds to improve the infrastructure and public institutions of his country.
   See also <>; <>; <>.
   FURTHER READING:
    Al-Rasheed, Madawi. A History of Saudi Arabia. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002;
    Anscombe, Frederick F. The Ottoman Gulf: The Creation of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997.
   BRENT D. SINGLETON

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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