Ahmed Zaki Yamani – a long-serving oil minister in Saudi Arabia who led the kingdom through the 1973 oil crisis and the nationality of his state power company, which he later found kidnapped by the murder of Carlos the Jackal – died in London. It was 90.
Saudi state television reported his death Tuesday without mentioning a cause. He said he would be buried in the holy city of Mecca.
Famous for her Western-style business attire and soft, eloquent tones, Yamani helped Saudi Arabia become involved in the organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) from birth. The kingdom is still a heavy pressure in the organization even today and its decisions are going through the oil industry, affecting prices from the barrel down to the gasoline pump.
“For the global oil industry, politicians and senior civil servants, journalists and the wider world, Yamani has become a representative, and indeed a symbol, of the new oil age, ”Author Daniel Yergin wrote in his pioneering oil industry book, The Award.
“His look, with his big, pale, brown eyes and Van Dyke’s beard, which was slightly curved, became familiar to the planet.”
The ‘oil weapon’
Yamani became oil minister in 1962 and led the ministry until 1986. He was instrumental in OPEC’s tighter oil cartels as producers around the world began to try to control prices. to the global market previously dominated by the economic policies of Western countries.
Yamani was the first Saudi representative on the OPEC board of governors in 1961. From his position, he became famous for an ever-relaxed bargaining style that Saudi ministers had sought after imitation.
But that style for an oil kingpin hailed by the reverend “the Sheikh” would be confirmed by the times, which ushered in turmoil in the global energy market. That was especially true in the October 1973 War, in which Egypt, Syria, and its allies launched a surprise attack on Israel on the holy Jewish day of Yom Kippur.
When the U.S. moved under President Richard Nixon to support Israel, Arab representatives in OPEC agreed to cut their supply by 5 percent per month. When Nixon continued his support, the decision led to what they called the “oil weapon” – a complete embargo on the U.S. and other countries.
Prices in the U.S. would rise 40 percent, leading to gasoline shortages and long lines at the pump. Oil prices across the globe would be quadruple, leading to wealth that can now be seen across Gulf Arab states today.
Taken as an enemy
In 1975, Yamani found himself twice at key moments in history.
He was there when King Faisal’s nephew attacked the monarch in March.
In December, he found himself among those abducted at OPEC headquarters in Vienna, an attack that killed three people and saw 11 captured. The attack ended seeing the pro-Palestinian attacks, led by “Carlos the Jackal” and the hostages released.
Yamani later described Carlos, a Venezuelan with the real name Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, as a “ruthless terrorist who works with cold blood, precision surgery”. From that moment on, Yamani traveled with an entourage of bodyguards everywhere he went.
Yamani also oversaw what was to become the full nationality of the Arab Oil Company of America after the 1973 oil crisis. Today, it is better known as the Saudi Arabian Oil Co., or Aramco, a major employer for the kingdom and its main source of income.
In 1986, Saudi King Fahd denounced Yamani in a terse statement made by the state-run Saudi Media Group. At the time, Yamani was believed to disagree with the king by persuading OPEC to work out a permanent system of production quotas and the kingdom would receive a larger share of the total. Saudi Arabia eventually joined another interim settlement.
Yamani was born in Mecca in 1930. His father and grandfather were religious teachers and Islamic lawyers. He studied at New York University and eventually Harvard. Twice married, he is survived by many children and grandchildren.