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Why Ali Al-Naimi’s book is a source of pride

As one reads the book, one can learn important facts of the former Saudi minister’s talks and discussions

Hussein Shobokshi

Published: Updated:

It is rare for any Saudi official to publish his memoirs. And when any new book is published, it is usually in great demand out of curiosity and passion to know the mysterious and subtle details and exciting events behind the scenes of the Saudi decision-making.

This is exactly what happened with the book, “Out of the Desert” authored by the former Saudi Oil Minister Ali Al-Naimi. A smooth and enjoyable book that allows the reader to see the life of a self-made man par excellence from his amazing background with a modest beginning and the story of his rise from bottom to one of the top and ambitious administrative jobs in the country and also at the international level.

As one reads the book, one can learn important facts of the former Saudi minister’s talks and discussions, challenges and confrontations with various political, financial and oil leaders around the world. The former minister is proud of his abilities and skills acquired in the discussions and negotiations in order to obtain the best terms and prices of any possible deal and that he had the upper hand in the bargaining process.

The most exciting chapter in the book is “Give Dough to the Baker.” This chapter discusses about the initiatives announced by Saudi Arabia to attract the world’s most important companies, specifically American companies, in the field of oil and gas. This chapter also lists the former minister’s desire for provision of better conditions, particularly the proportion of the required financial returns on investments.

While the US companies insisted on a return of up to 18 to 20 percent, the minister believed that reasonable ceiling could be in the range of 10 to 12 percent. He continued “negotiations” for long years and dealt with this issue “purely” from the commercial aspect of “oil” without understanding the political dimension.

Policy is an integral part of the economy and there is no scenario in which you can see this relationship more clearly than the oil policy in the Middle East with more detail and complexity

Hussein Shobokshi

At this juncture, the late Saudi foreign minister Saud al-Faisal, under whose presidency the initiative was undertaken, understood the consequences of these negotiations, later stayed away from these discussions, as it was purely “the oil” factor.

In my view, it was this “tough stance” in these negotiations, partly headed by Exxon Mobil’s Rex Tilerson (current candidate for the position of secretary of state in the administration team of President-elect Donald Trump) that caused the talks not to succeed in maintaining the “great attitude” with the giant US companies.

The alleged delight

Personally, I am convinced that it contributed to accelerating the decision of the neo-conservatives to invade Iraq “to secure” strategic oil resources in the region. The alleged delight of the former minister in claiming success of his talks was like expressing success of an operation, despite the death of the patient!

Exxon Mobil is no ordinary company, nor is America an ordinary state. The economic and investment decisions were not considered with a political view; this sense did not prevail in “Abu Rami.”

Overall the book, an account of a distinctive and smooth life, is a source of pride for the Saudis and the story of struggle in every sense of the word and gives hope of systematically and beautifully conquering the impossible. Policy is an integral part of the economy and there is no scenario in which you can see this relationship more clearly than the oil policy in the Middle East with more detail and complexity.

The book is beautiful and enjoyable, showing both sides — joy and sorrow — for a man who became an example for generations to come. I advise every reader to obtain a copy and enjoy the journey of reading every page of it.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on January 02, 2016.
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(Hussein Shobokshi is a Businessman and prominent columnist. Shobokshi hosts the weekly current affairs program Al Takreer on Al Arabiya, and in 1995, he was chosen as one of the "Global Leaders for Tomorrow" by the World Economic Forum. He received his B.A. in Political Science and Management from the University of Tulsa.)

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.