Ahmed Zaki Yamani, the powerful Saudi oil minister and architect of the Arab World’s drive to control his energy resources in the 1970s and his subsequent ability to influence oil production, fuel prices and international affairs, died in London. He was 90 years old.
And the official Saudi TV announced his death on Tuesday.
In an era of turbulent energy politics, Mr. Yamani, a Harvard-trained lawyer, has spoken on behalf of Arab oil producers on the world stage as the industry has escaped the Arab-Israeli wars, revolution in Iran and mounting pains. Global demand for oil has pushed the governments of Saudi Arabia and other Arab Gulf states into unimaginable worlds of wealth. Across Europe, Asia, and America to promote Arab oil interests, he met government leaders, appeared on television and became widely known. Wearing an Arabic slip-on robe or a Savile Row suit, and speaking English or French, Spanning culturesAnd love of European classical music and writing Arabic poetry.
Mr. Yamani generally sought price stability and market regulation, but he was best known for engineering an oil embargo in 1973 that led to higher global prices, shortages of petrol, search for smaller cars, renewable energy sources and independence from Arab oil.
As Saudi Minister of Petroleum from 1962 to 1986, Mr. Yamani was the most powerful people in the kingdom which held some of the largest oil reserves in the world. For nearly 25 years, he was also the dominant official in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), whose high and low production quotas were swaying like tides in global markets.
In 1972, Mr. Yamani has moved to wrest control of the vast Gulf oil reserves from Aramco, a group of four American oil companies that have been exploiting them for a long time. While Arab leaders demanded the nationalization of Aramco – a takeover that could cost US technical and marketing expertise, in addition to capital – Mr. Yamani adopted a more moderate strategy.
Under the historic “musharakah” agreement negotiated by Mr. Yamani, Saudi Arabia won the rights to acquire 25% of foreign concessions immediately and gradually raise its stakes to a controlling stake. Meanwhile, Aramco has continued to operate its concessions, benefiting from oil extraction, refining and marketing, despite having to pay sharply higher fees to the Saudi government.
The deal kept oil flowing into a dependent industrial world, and provided time for Arab oil producers to develop their technical and marketing expertise. These developments ultimately led to a colossal prosperity for the Gulf states and a radical shift in economic and political power in the region.
In 1973, after Israel defeated Egypt and Syria in the Yom Kippur War and demanded that Arab leaders use oil as a political weapon, Mr. Yamani instituted an embargo to pressure the United States and other allies to withdraw their support for Israel and Israel. To withdraw from the occupied Arab territories. The embargo has caused shock waves around the world, fractured NATO, and leaned Japan and other countries toward the Arabs.
But the United States stood by. President Richard Nixon created an energy caesar. It imposed gasoline rationing and price controls. There were long lines and occasional pump fights. While inflation has continued for years, there has been a new focus on energy exploration and conservation, including, for some time, a national speed limit of 55 mph on highways.
A tall man with deep eyes and a small Van Dyck beard, Yamani struck Westerners as generous, shrewd, and diligent.
“He speaks calmly and never knocks on the table,” one US oil executive told The New York Times. “When discussions get heated, he becomes more patient. In the end, he makes his way with what appears to be a nice plausibility, but it’s kind of tough.”
In 1975, Mr. Yamani had two faces of violence. His patron King Faisal was assassinated by his nephew in Riyadh. Nine months later, he and other OPEC ministers were taken hostage by terrorists led by Elish Ramirez Sanchez, also known as Carlos the Fox.
For years after the embargo, Mr. Yamani has struggled to rein in oil prices, believing that the long-term Saudi interest is to prolong the global dependence on affordable oil. But the overthrow of the Shah of Iran in the 1979 Islamic Revolution sparked an energy crisis. Iranian production fell, prices rose, panic buying began, rising OPEC stocks flooded the market and prices fell again.
In 1986, after the prolonged global oil glut and disputes between Mr. Yamani and the royal family over quotas and prices, King Fahd sacked the oil minister, Ending his 24 years as the most famous member of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia without a member of the royal family.
Ahmed Zaki Yamani was born on June 30, 1930 in Mecca, the holy Islamic city of Hajj, and is one of three sons of Hassan Yamani, the judge of Islamic law. The surname originated in Yemen, the land of its ancestors. The boy was religious, and would wake up early to pray before school. Sent abroad for higher education, and obtained degrees from King Fouad I University in Cairo in 1951, New York University in 1955 and Harvard Law School in 1956.
He and Laila Suleiman Al-Fadhihi married in 1955 and has three children. His second wife, Tamam Anbar. They married in 1975 and have five children.
In 1958, the royal family recruited him to advise Crown Prince Faisal, and his rise was rapid. In the year he was minister of state without portfolio, and by 1962 minister of oil. In 1963, Mr. Yamani and Aramco founded the Saudi College of Petroleum and Minerals, to teach oil industry experience to Arab students.
After his dismissal from the position of Minister of Oil, Mr. Yamani became a consultant, businessman and investor, and settled in Crans-sur-Seire, Switzerland. In 1982, he joined other financiers at Investcorp, a Bahrain-based private equity firm. In 1990, he founded the Center for Global Energy Research, a market analysis group in London. An autobiography, “Yamani: The Inside Story”, was published by Geoffrey Robinson in 1989.
Ben Hubbard Contribute to reporting.