- The Washington Times - Monday, August 15, 2005

Different Saudi beat

The new ruler of Saudi Arabia must push ahead quickly with reforms if the kingdom is to survive, said a foreign-policy specialist who served three secretaries of state.

Harvey Sicherman, president of the Philadelphia-based Foreign Policy Research Institute, noted the challenges facing King Abdullah in a recent article about the long and remarkable reign of the late King Fahd.

Mr. Sicherman said King Abdullah will have to abandon the slow pace of reform, which he called “inchmanship,” that King Fahd adopted from his father, Abdulaziz al Saud, the founder of Saudi Arabia.

“Fahd’s methods and his legacy can only go so far. His notions of reform clearly belong to an earlier era,” Mr. Sicherman said.

“The religious, political, economic and military pressures bearing down on his successor demand change at a more rapid pace that the infamous inchmanship beloved by al Saud.”

At his coronation, King Abdullah prayed “for the strength to continue the march begun by the founder of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the great Abdulaziz al Saud.”

However, Mr. Sicherman warned, “Abdullah’s march must be to a markedly different beat than Fahd’s, if the kingdom is to survive.”

Mr. Sicherman said King Fahd was one of the world’s “most opulent” and skillful rulers, as he consolidated Saudi relations with the United States and faced threats from Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

“Fahd also possessed powers as monarch that would have impressed Louis XIV,” he said.

“Born when the kingdom was but a gleam in his father’s eyes, bred to rapidly expanding wealth and power, he took his country successfully through an extraordinary series of life-threatening events of the kind never seen by his predecessors,” Mr. Sicherman said.

“Profligate though he may have been, Fahd never forgot that Saudi Arabia was a rich place with a small army in a region full of ghastly predators.”

Mr. Sicherman served as an aide to Secretaries of State Alexander M. Haig Jr., George P. Shultz and James A. Baker III.

Aid to Georgia

Democratic reform in the Republic of Georgia is paying hefty dividends in U.S. aid.

The State Department yesterday listed $138.9 million in assistance to Georgia, an increase of about $37 million from 2004.

The aid reflects Washington’s support for the Rose Revolution of 2003 that replaced an authoritarian government.

“Democracy programs in Georgia are realizing positive results,” the department said. “The peaceful Rose Revolution … is a good example of the progress made in strengthening independent political parties and building a strong civil society in Georgia.”

President Bush added his personal endorsement when he visited Georgia in May.

The aid allots $71.7 million for security and law enforcement, $44.5 million for economic and social reform, $14.9 million for democracy programs, and $7.8 for humanitarian assistance and related projects.

Diplomat drowns

A diplomat at the U.S. Embassy in Tajikistan drowned while he was swimming in a lake over the weekend.

David Wills, who served three years in the Central Asian nation, was pronounced dead at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the main hospital in the capital, Dushanbe, according to Agence France-Presse.

The news agency quoted a source in the interior ministry who said Mr. Wills drowned at Varzob Lake, a popular recreation spot north of the capital. The source said Mr. Wills was born in 1957, but did not give an exact age. The embassy only confirmed that Mr. Wills had died, without giving details.

Mr. Wills worked as a information management technician and was preparing to transfer to Iraq.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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