He had the misfortune to be born at a time when the region has produced a number of leaders of great note. Towering above all of them, literally as well as figuratively' was King Abdul Aziz ibn Abdul Rahman of Saudi Arabia, one of the Great Men of history. After him the skill and subtlety of his son, Shaikh Salman's nearer contemporary, King Faisal ibn Abdul Aziz, have also acquired an almost legendary character. These two men ruled a nation of great extent and importance. Shaikh Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa of necessity worked on a different scale and in a different fashion. Bahrain was a small island state, whose importance came from its strategic location in the waters of the Arabian Gulf and its long historic tradition of trade, extending over millennia; in Shaikh Salman's time, to those factors was added the development of the oil industry. But the simple rules of geopolitics dictated that whatever role the island state might have, it was unlikely to be a dominant force in the region in any political sense.