Upon Khalid's death in 1982, Fahd became king of Saudi Arabia. During the 1980s, King Fahd established closer ties to the United States in response to perceived threats that included the 1979 Iranian Revolution and the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq War. Partly because of this shift toward the West, Fahd and the Saudi royal family came under increasing criticism from outspoken Muslim clerics. In 1986, Fahd adopted the title "Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques" (referring to Mecca and Medina) in an effort to add legitimacy to his rule.
The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990 led to an even stronger U.S.-Saudi relationship with the stationing of several hundred thousand American troops on Saudi soil. This resulted in even greater criticism from Muslim clerics and further challenges to the royal family, including a protest in November 1990 by more than forty Saudi women who illegally drove cars in the streets of Riyadh.
In 1992, Fahd initiated a series of reforms aimed at bolstering the credibility of the royal family as well as appeasing religious critics. The reforms included the creation of a Consultative Council to ensure that secular legislation remains in line with the requirements of Sharia, or Islamic law. In 1995, Fahd suffered a debilitating stroke, and his half brother, Crown Prince Abdullah, assumed control of day-to-day affairs in the kingdom. Fahd died in Riyadh on 1 August 2005.
Brent M. Geary
Cordesman, Anthony H. Saudi Arabia Enters the Twenty-First Century: The Political, Foreign Policy, Economic, and Energy Dimensions. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2003.