U.S. Challenges and Choices in the Gulf: Saudi Arabia

President Bush and Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia

The September 11th terrorist attacks and their aftermath have not altered Saudi Arabia’s fundamental importance in the international arena nor its importance to the United States. Saudi Arabia remains the source of much of the world’s oil reserves, the site of the holiest places in Islam, and the crossroad of strategic lines of communication between Europe and Asia.

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Nonetheless, the September 11th terrorist attacks, unprecedented in myriad ways, have severely strained US-Saudi relations. The facts that Osama Bin Laden and 15 of the hijackers were of Saudi origin and that Saudi Arabia supported the Taliban government in Afghanistan have produced a climate of mistrust and misunderstanding and placed a chill on business activity.

US-Saudi relations have witnessed past periods of friction, as during the 1973 Arab oil embargo, but communication and cooperation always resumed because of core common interests on both sides. The United States and Saudi Arabia are strategic partners with a record of close cooperation, especially with respect to ensuring the stable supply and price of oil on the world market. During the Cold War, Saudi Arabia played a key role in meeting a number of US foreign policy objectives, including assistance in the effort to expel the Soviet Union from Afghanistan.