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Saudi Arabia: Background and U.S. Relations

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Congressional research rept.

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The kingdom of Saudi Arabia, ruled by the Al Saud family since its founding in 1932, wields significant political and economic influence as the birthplace of the Islamic faith and by virtue of its large energy reserves. Since 2005, King Abdullah bin Abd al Aziz Al Saud has sought to strengthen Saudi relations with European and Asian counterparts and has worked to build and lead an Arab consensus on regional security issues such as Lebanon and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Domestic reforms under King Abdullah have codified royal succession rules, begun restructuring the justice system, and updated some educational curricula and practices. An Al Qaeda-inspired terrorist campaign inside the kingdom appears to have ebbed as security improvements and anti-extremism campaigns have been implemented. However, the threat of domestic terrorism remains In February 2009, Saudi authorities identified several dozen individuals suspected of continuing involvement in Al Qaeda activities, including some former prisoners of the U.S. facility at Guantanamo Bay. Robust energy export revenues in recent years strengthened the kingdoms regional and global economic position and are now providing Saudi leaders with resources to meet fiscal challenges posed by the global economic downturn. A close Cold War-era relationship between the United States government and the ruling Al Saud family was built on shared interests in securing Saudi oil production and in combating global Communism. Since the end of the Cold War, the emergence of the Al Qaeda terrorist threat and volatile regional security conditions in the Middle East have tested U.S.-Saudi relations. The direct participation of 15 Saudi nationals in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the identification of several Saudi nationals and entities as alleged supporters of terrorism have called into question Saudi Arabias reliability as an ally for some U.S. observers.

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  • Economics and Cost Analysis
  • Government and Political Science

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