Saudi Arabia A Modest Step Forward

King Fahd loosens his grip on the government

Fifteen years ago, when King Fahd was still Crown Prince, he pledged to establish a citizens' consultative council upon ascending Saudi Arabia's throne. But after he came to power in 1982, Fahd found ample excuses to confine decision making within a narrow family circle. Then came Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait and the subsequent arrival of more than 500,000 U.S. troops in the region. While President Bush maintained that Desert Storm was not designed to promote democracy in the gulf's oilagarchies, the campaign to liberate Kuwait prodded conservative Arab rulers to broaden public participation.

Last week King Fahd finally introduced modest...