الصفحة الرئيسية | السيرة الذاتية مراجعات أعمال د. الصويان الأعمال المنشورة | الصحراء العربية: شعرها وثقافتها | أساطير ومرويات شفهية من الجزيرة العربية
 الثقافة التقليدية مقالات صحفية في الأدب الشفهي مقالات صحفية بالعربية محاضرات عامة معرض صور تسجيلات صوتية موسيقى تقليدية
ديواني
| كتب في الموروث الشعبي مخطوطات الشعر النبطي أعمال قيد النشر لقاء تلفزيوني مع محطة العربية مواقع ذات علاقة العنوان

Home | Curriculum Vita | Reviews | Publications | Arabian Desert Poetry | Legends & Oral Narratives  
Traditional Culture
|
Articles on Oral Literature | Articles in SaudiDebate | Public Lectures |  Photo Gallery | Sound Recordings
Traditional Music
| Anthology | Folklore Books | Manuscripts | Work in Progress | TV Interview | Relevent Links | Contact


Abdullah Tariki: The FIRST SAUDI OIL MINISTER

Abdullah Tariki was the first Saudi oil minister. He was the son of a jammaal, a camelman who organized camel caravans that plodded the desert causeways transporting goods from Kuwait to ibn Saud in Riyadh, a journey that lasted half a month. Since there were no schools then in his hometown in Najd, the son at a very early age had to mount one of his fathers camels to go to school in Kuwait and India. The boy represented the first generation of Saudi technocrats who were to give up camels for cadillacs. His fathers caravan had to negotiate its way through the territories of hostile warring tribes, a skill the boy acquired to use later in his negotiations with super powers over the pricing of oil. He turned out to be the scourge of Aramco and he collaborated with Perez Alfonso of Venezuela to create OPEC in 1960.

A full and well-written biography of Tariki has recently been released in the Arabic language in 597 pages ((Riad El-Rayyes Books, Beirut, 2007). The author of the biography, Muhammad as-Seif, comes from the same hometown as Tariki, a small hamlet in the midst of Najd called Zilfi. This enabled as-Seif to rely, in addition to written documents, on oral sources through interviewing coworkers as well as contemporary friends, relatives and family members some of whom knew Tariki personally since childhood. The author also scanned all the local papers in that period, which were following very closely the news of Tariki who became the superstar of oil politics and economics throughout the 1960s. Furthermore, as-Seif gave a succinct summation of Tarikis opinions on various issues related to oil and Arab politics which he expressed in the articles he wrote regularly in his oil journal which he published from 1965 till 1979.

Tariki was born in 1918. He earned his bachelor degree from Cairo University in 1944 and master from the university of Texas in 1947 majoring in petroleum engineering. Abdullah as-Suleiman, the Saudi finance minister, was overtaken by the intelligence and eloquence of Tariki and, after getting his Master degree, he charged him with the responsibility of monitoring Aramcos pumping, sales and royalty accounts. As-Suleiman resigned his post in 1954. When late king Faisal took over the ministry of finance in 1958, he established a new Department in the ministry for Saudi Petroleum and Mineral Resources and appointed Tariki as its Director General.

It did not take Tariki a long time to discover that, aside from its apartheid policies in its living arrangement for and treatment of Saudi workers, Aramco was short-changing and exploiting the Saudi government, instead of honoring the mutual agreement of splitting the profit 50:50. The company sold Saudi oil to its parent companies (Texaco, Exxon, Socal and Mobil) at considerable discounted prices, enabling them to make huge profits for their downstream divisions of refining, transport and marketing. Through a complex maze of faulty accounting procedures, Aramco was able to hide the real profits, which were supposed to be shared with the Saudis. These malpractices actually reduced the Saudi share of the profit from 50% to a mere 32%, not to mention the fact that the company never bothered to utilize the natural gas accompanying oil which was burned as waste product.

Tariki fought very hard to set the financial records straight and insisted on sharing profit on the realized rather than posted price, regardless of discounts, and to secure Saudi participation in every step of oil production, refinery, transportation and marketing. He invented the motto from well to car. The radical ideas of Tariki were further inflamed after his meeting with President Nasser whom he met at the first Arab Petroleum Congress convened in Cairo in 1959. One of Tarikis mottos came after that Congress the Arab petroleum is for the Arabs. Since then he started talking about nationalizing oil. After Britain, France and Israel attacked Egypt in 1956 over the nationalization of the Sues Canal, he started to push for the use of oil as a political weapon in the Arabs struggle against imperialism and Zionism.

Perez Alfonso of Venezuela was a comrade in arms with Tariki in pushing for the establishment of OPEC to combat the monopolies of oil companies, a dream which was realized in 1960.

Through the 1960s the price for a barrel for Saudi oil was less than $2.00, or 4 cents per gallon. It was king Faisal who, after the 1967 Arab Israeli war, initiated the oil embargo that eventually lead to the energy price explosion.

Tariki allied himself with a group of radical Saudi princes headed by prince Talal and known as the free princes. They demanded government reforms. Hoping that Faisal would help bring about their dreams of political reforms, the free princes sided with him in his disputes with his brother king Saud in 1958 and pressured the latter to hand over the running of the day to day government affairs to Faisal and transfer to him executive powers while remaining as king.

Faisal had to take frugal and tough measures to save the prestige of the government and the national budget in which he found no more than $375. These austerity measures did not go well with tribal chiefs who were used to Sauds bounty and merchants who lost big contracts. The free princes were also disillusioned by Faisal, who did not implement the constitutional reforms that he had promised them. In 1960 they allied themselves with Saud after extracting from him promises of reform in exchange for helping him to retrieve executive powers and the presidency of the Council of Ministers, which he had relinquished to the crown prince. While the constitutionalists were drawing up a constitution for a constitutional monarchy and a chart for a provisional national assembly half elected and half nominated by a joint committee of princes and ministers, Saud formed his own cabinet, which, for the first time, included six non-royal ministers, most of whom were pushing for reforms. The group was lead by the influential Tariki whose Department of Saudi Petroleum and Mineral Resources was upgraded by king Saud to a ministry headed by him as Minister of Oil and Petroleum Resources. Those were the heydays of Tariki.

Saud did not appear to be serious about promised reforms. Prince Talal, who was appointed as finance minister in the new cabinet, quarreled with him over his extravagant spending. Some believe that the free princes and the king were using each other for their own ends. The real aim of the constitutionalists was to advance themselves more rapidly in the royal ranks. They saw reform as a means of leap frogging up the ranks where respect for seniority by age was paramount. They thought the ousting of a strong president of the Council of Ministers and the restoration of a weak king might be a short cut to achieving their aim. The king on his part was using them to gain lost prerogatives. Alliance built on such weak bases cannot last long and soon Saud government was tottering and it almost crashed down under the pressure of regional events, mainly the fallouts of the breakup of union between Syria and Egypt. Once more, Saud had to surrender executive powers to Faisal. Faisal was back in the drivers seat and he took over the presidency of the Council of Ministers in 1961.

Although Faisal promoted Tariki at first, gradually he found him not to his taste with his tirades at oil conferences and inflammatory high profile interviews in newspapers. He was infatuated by Nasser and too radical for Faisal who sacked this tactless Najdi in 1962 and replaced him with the moderate and suave Hejazi Ahmad Zaki Yamani.

All those who knew Tariki, friends and foes alike, agreed that he had an exceptional and engaging personality with courage and honesty. Intelligent, lucid and articulate, he was popular wherever he went. But his militancy, outspokenness and fiery character won him the wrath of Faisal. His association with the free princes and his appointment by Saud to the council of ministers in 1960 as the countrys first oil minister of Petroleum and Mineral resources sealed his fate with Faisal.

Tariki chose self exile but he did not seek refuge with Nasser whom he greatly admired for fear that he would be used by that leaders propaganda machine, which was the case with the free princes who headed for Cairo. Tariki had no ax to grind with the Royal family and did not want to burn his bridges with them, so he went to Beirut where he opened an office for oil consultancy and started publishing a journal devoted to oil economics and politics. But later he was forced to exit Beirut to Cairo because Faisal pressured Chamoun, the Lebanese president, to force him out. He stayed few months in Cairo before moving to settle in Kuwait.

After 18 years of self-imposed exile Tariki returned to Riyadh in 1980. The Saudi government granted him a big house and a big stipend. He died in 1997.

Despite his radical rhetoric and his Nasserite leanings, there was no doubt about the sincerity of Tariki. His integrity was beyond question. For many years he held a position through which he could have made big money, one way or the other. He lived a life of almost hand to mouth. Even in his exile he did not bear any grudge against his country. He remained always loyal and discrete when talking about the Saudi government or the Saudi Royal family. He wanted to reform the government, not revolt against it. He could have been much more effective and he could have done a much better job, but he was the victim of national rhetoric and political currents of the time. His dreams were to be realized by his successor, the more astute and calculating Yamani, the man of strategy and realism.
 

 







  

<<Previous   |  All Articles  |  Next>>